Foam Roller Exercises for the Upper Body

At Yarra Osteopathy we strongly believe in an active approach to recovering and managing your pain. Our patients are regularly given exercise and “homework” at the end of their treatments. We have many tools available to us at the clinic and I’m sure many of you are familiar with the foam roller. The foam roller is a fantastic way to mobilise and stretch numerous parts of the body.

I’ve decided to write a guide for everyone that owns a roller or may have access to one at a gym.

First, let’s set you up on the foam roller… Sit at the end of the roller and lie with it vertically along your spine so that your tailbone is at one end and your head is able to rest comfortably at the top.

Passive anterior chest stretch

Spread your arms out to either side until you feel a stretch through the front of your chest. This simple decompression/stretching exercise is fantastic to balance out your posture at the end of a long day at your desk. Lay on the roller in this position for up to five minutes.

Thoracic and rib mobility

Raise your arms above your head so that your wrists are directly in line with your shoulders. Imagine someone is holding onto your wrists and pulling them directly up towards the ceiling… The shoulder blades feel as though they are lifting away from the foam roller and ground. Hold here for a couple of seconds.

Now imagine they are sinking back towards the foam roller and wrapping around it. Your shoulder blades should feel heavy. Allow them to sink into the roller and wrap around it. Repeat 20-30 times.

Shoulder range of motion

Continue on in this position so that wrists are in line with the shoulders as previously demonstrated. Keeping your elbows straight, move your arms over your head towards the top of the roller.

Hold here for 3 seconds and then return your arms, past shoulder height level and all the way down so that your wrists are on the floor past the hips. Again, hold for three seconds. Repeat this movement 20-30 times

Now it’s time to hop off the foam roller and turn it so that it runs horizontal along your spine. Sit with the roller underneath your back, just below the shoulder blades. From here we can work on different segments of the middle back, promoting extension articulation through this area which tends to be fixed in flexion as we sit for long periods at work or in transit.

Thoracic Mobility Stretch

Support your head as if you are going to do a sit-up, and gently extend your back over the roller.

Repeat at one level 10-15 times. Target other levels of the back by sliding your tailbone slightly toward or away from the roller so that a different part of the spine is contacting and able to be articulated.

Remain in the same position as per the previous exercise. Here with feet hip width apart and knees bent, lift your pelvis off the floor.

Be very careful with this exercise. Only do this progression if advised given the ok by your osteopath. Using the legs, roll forwards and backwards over the roller. This should feel quite nice, as though the spine is releasing as you go over each segment. If there is any undue discomfort in the area being rolled or in the lower back, cease this exercise. Continue rolling for 30-60 seconds.

This concludes the upper body series on the roller. Stay tuned for more foam roller tips. Next time… The legs!

If you have any questions or would like some assistance with your foam roller please do not hesitate to contact us at Yarra Osteopathy or make an appointment today.