The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles that can easily get messed up. Have you ever seen an example of a complex sequence of cogs? Once someone or something gets stuck between two of the cogs the sequence stops working. You see this all the time in Hollywood action movies. Your back works similarly; where one thing is strained, sprained or irritated the whole thing doesn't work right. American's spend nearly $50 billion each year to try to fix their back pain. This covers people who have suffered a ruptured disc all the way to visiting a masseuse because of muscle tightness. Please, if you have suffered a serious back injury go see a doctor -- these stretches are for the more common back pain: such as stress, not stretching and over use. As much as a professional massage sounds fantastic most people can't afford one everyday or once a week for that matter. You could be saving yourself money by just buying a foam roller and using it everyday with these stretches. Chiropractor and massage parlor trips will be cut down and money will be saved.
Please remember to drink water before and after you have completed the stretches. This will help flush the toxins released when you use the foam roller. Because your back muscles connect to your legs --tight legs are the usual culprits for a sore back-- remember to stretch your legs. I wrote an article on leg stretches using a foam roller and an article on which foam roller is the best. Doing both the legs stretches and these stretches for your back will help with flexibility and reduce back pain.
Lay down on your right side, straighten your right leg, and place your left foot flat on the floor behind your right leg. Put the foam roller under your right arm pit and extend your right arm straight, resting your left hand on your hip. Roll from your armpit down about 4-5 inches, for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch sides and repeat.
*Reach your stretching side arm as far as possible to create more of a stretch.
There are two exercises for the thoracic spine. Do the first exercise and if that is pain free then move on to the second.
First: Rest your back against the roller positioned underneath your shoulder blades. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Lift that booty and place your hands behind your head like you are going to do a crunch. Keeping your core muscles tight, slowly roll forward and back so that the roller moves up and down between the middle of your back and the top of your shoulder blades.
*Don’t tilt your head forward to look at your legs as you roll as this will place stress on the spine. Keep your head and neck in line with your back
Second: This variation of the exercise that will take it a step further. Start in the same position as the earlier variation. Extend your arms out at above your head and then reach back behind you towards floor. It will look like a crunch. Make sure that the lower back doesn't extend -- think about pushing the lumbar spine into the ground as you are reaching back.
*Move it up and down to target different areas of the thoracic spine while still doing the extension motion.
* Do this move slowly! You should be doing all the stretches slowly but focus on being slow and steady with this stretch.
This stretch is similar to the lat stretch with a couple of differences. First, want to start it right above your hip second, place the foam roller so that the muscle to the side of your spine rests on the roller. Roll from your hip up to your ribcage. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute and then repeat on your left side.
*For this stretch don't roll directly over bone.
This is the major connection point of the muscles in your back connecting with the muscles in your legs. This means you have to take care of your tush, your booty or whatever you want to call it. This stretch ties in with the leg stretches article I wrote.
Start by sitting on the roller with the meaty part of your booty (That is the best description for a stretch yet) directly on top of the roller. Begin slowly rolling back and forth and from one side to the other release any tight sports in the muscle.
*You can focus on one cheek at a time. Remember to work back and forth hitting the muscles on the side also
Remember that to do all these stretches slow and deliberate. If you are new to foam rolling these stretches are going to hurt. Even if it hurts --muscle pain only otherwise see a doctor immediately-- you want to do them slowly. The painful areas are your problem spots and where toxins have built up. If you where to run through all these stretches to fast you will negate the benefits. At that point why even bother using the foam roller. Remember the point is to increase flexibility and reduce pain. That means you have to hit those painful spots to see the results you wanted in the first place.
Drink plenty of water before and after you are done with the stretches. Foam rolling releases a lot of toxins that have built up in the muscles. Drinking the water will reduce this buildup and help to flush the toxins out. Actually drinking a lot of water throughout the day will help with this also. Remember why you are doing this; you want to increase flexibility, reduce the pain and overall have a healthier live. Enjoy the benefits of a healthier life and happy foam rolling.