Foam Roller: Tips and Techniques

Foam Roller Tips and Techniques: Upper Back, Shoulder, and Chest

Benefits of using a foam roller is comparable to a deep tissue massage, myofascial release and myofascial trigger point therapy.Myofascial trigger points are taut bands or knots in the muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas. Trigger points can also limit range-of-motion, inhibit muscle strength and cause muscle fatigue. Regular work can increase flexibility and performance while decreasing muscle tension and pain.

Maximize the effectiveness of the foam roller by incorporating it into your daily stretching routine. Use the roller before and after activity, and always roll before you stretch. This will help to warm up cold muscles and prepare them for deeper stretching.

Make sure you roll on soft tissue and not over joints, ligaments, or bony protrusions. Start by placing your body on a roller and slowly roll up and down the muscle. If you find a knot or tight band, hold that spot and try to feel the tissue release and soften underneath the pressure. Take deep breaths and try to keep your body relaxed as possible.

Use of the foam roller can be painful. If an area is too painful to roll, place your body on the roller for 15 seconds before moving on to the next spot. As the tissue starts to loosen up you should be able to roll with less pain.

Thoracic Spine

019Position the roller so that it’s inline with your spine, knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Make sure that it is supporting you from your tailbone all the way up to the back of your head so that you can relax everything during the exercise.

Hold this position for 15-90 seconds as long as it is comfortable and does not cause pain.

To target the the postural muscles on the right side, roll your body to the left, keeping your spine parallel to the roller, and stop on the muscles that run along the length of your spine. Hold for 15-90 seconds and allow yourself to relax. Repeat on the left side.


028Lie with your spine inline with the foam roller. Again, be sure to keep your head and hips supported on the roller. While keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the floor for balance, place your arms directly out to the side so you make a “T” with your body.

The more advanced version of this 029stretch is to have your upper arms on the floor perpendicular to your body and elbows bent at a 90 degree angle up and pointing above the head. Hold for 15-90 seconds.





Upper Back (rhomboids, middle trapezius, thoracic spine)

022Lie with the foam roller perpendicular to your body under the upper back. place your hands across your chest or behind your head with your elbows drawn in slightly toward midline- this allows for cervical spine support as well as letting your shoulder blades separate. If able, move body up and down a few inches at a time to target trigger points. Hold for 15-90 seconds as long as it is comfortable and does not cause pain.

Lateral Upper Back (latissimus dorsi, teres major)

026Lie on the left side with the foam roller perpendicular to the body and slightly below the armpit. Lean back slightly and extend the left arm out with your palm facing forward. Hold for 15-90 seconds. Repeat on right side.

To get an additional spot, try angling your body (as seen in picture 2) to assist in getting more of the teres/latissimus region


Mid Back (rhomboids)

024Lie with foam roller perpendicular to your body and across the shoulder blades, arms crossed on chest. Turn slight to the right about 40-45 degrees or until the roller rest between the shoulder blade and spine. Once positioned, slowly roll your body up and down an inch or two in either direction along the rhomboid. Hold for 15-90 seconds. Repeat on opposite side of body.

Stop in the office to pick up your foam roller today! (802)655-0354

Reference: Foam Roller Techniques, OPTP, 2008, Michael Fredericson, MD, Terri Lyn S. Yamamoto, PhD, Mark Fadil, CMT, p. 15, 17, 23.


Benefits of Stretching

Stretching is not just for athletes.  The following are some of the reasons why stretching may be beneficial for YOU!

1. Increase your range of motion.   Stretching helps to warm up muscles and joints. Synovial fluid is released from the cartilage within the joints, lubricating them and keeping bones moving freely.  Elongation of muscles and tendons becomes even more important as we age as our range of motion can become quite restricted along with loss of joint flexibility.  Getting into a stretching routine will help keep us strong and flexible.

2. Injury prevention.  Stretching will help us become stronger and more flexible in performing a variety of physical activities, including household chores.  Stretching affects the viscoelastic behavior of muscle and tendon. (Viscoelasticity refers to the ability to exhibit a change in length as well as amount of flow and movement).  Flexible muscles are able to distribute strength, increased balance and use less energy in the process.

3. Reduce muscle tension. Stretching is helpful in getting blood flowing into the muscles and joints.  This improves movement, circulation, promotes lower blood pressure and lessens fatigue.  Mentally, the relaxing signals sent to the brain during stretching are carried on for several hours after the exercise.

Tips when stretching:

  • Focus on major muscle groups.  Neck, shoulders, low back, hips, thighs, hamstrings, calves.  Stretch both sides (right and left) equally.
  • Slow and steady.  Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, breathing with each stretch.  Inhale during rest and exhale while doing work.   Don’t bounce.  Bouncing can cause small tears in the muscle, tendons or ligaments leaving scar tissue as it heals.  This will actually make you less flexible over time.
  • Be consistent.  You can achieve the greatest benefits by stretching regularly, at least 3 times a week.  Stretching should feel good, increasing your flexibility with gentle tension.

Beginner Gluteal Stretches – Single Knee to Opposite Chest:  Begin by lying on back, with both knees bent.  Take a breath in and as you exhale bring right knee towards the left side of your chest, grab with both hands and pull towards chest to hold for 20 seconds. Repeat for the left side.


Figure Four:  Lying on your back, place your right foot on your left knee. Take a breath in, and as you exhale bring your left knee towards the left side of your chest and hold with both hands under your left knee for 20 sec.  Repeat other side.


Rock the Baby: Seated exercise, begin by lifting one leg up and grabbing under the knee and ankle.  Stretch for 5-10 seconds and then move leg across your body for another 5-10 second stretch. Remember to breathe!       


Lying Knee Extension:  Lying on your back, take a breath in and as you exhale bring one leg towards your chest, grab behind knee (or use a towel to wrap behind your leg) and bring leg toward chest.  This can be done lying in a doorway, with one leg resting on the doorframe. Hold for 30 seconds, breathe!

B6 B7

Dick, F. Sports Training Principles. London, A & C Black. 1997

Lipowitz, Alan J.  Synovial Fluid Chapter 86 Stretching:  Focus on flexibility, accessed 3/12/13 New Insight Into Joint Lubrication That Keeps Osteoarthritis At Bay

Article Date: 02 Apr 2006 – 5:00 PDT

National Strength & Conditioning Association Human Kinetics. 2002  Champaign, IL Essentials of strength training and conditioning,2nd ed

Joint cracking and popping: Understanding noises that accompany articular release Marina G. Protapapas, DO, Tyler C. Cymet, DO

Shrier, Ian.  Does stretching help prevent injuries?  Blackwell Publishing 12/26/2006, page 36