Working all day hunched over a computer, along with other aspects of our lives like driving, carrying children or everyday stresses can create tension in your upper back and shoulders that could last a lifetime. The foam roller is a perfect tool to roll this stress away. About 36 inches long, foam rollers not only massage your shoulders but can be used to stretch tight areas throughout your body and even strengthen your core. Better yet, you don't need a gym, as rollers are relatively inexpensive and available in many stores and online.
Foam rollers allow you to do simple but effective stretches on your floor at home. You will feel the most intense stretch in your chest and shoulders, while the muscles around your shoulder blades will feel a mild stretch and massage. Lie on the roller with your head on one end and your bottom at the other. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart and your abdominals engaged. Reach your arms to the ceiling as you inhale and try to pull your shoulder blades away from the roller. Then, keeping your arms extended, feel your shoulder blades wrap around the roller as you exhale. Repeat a few times. Reach your arms to the ceiling again, but this time extend them back over your head. Open your arms wide to the sides, bringing them around to rest next to your hips and reach your hands down along your body to feel a stretch in your shoulders and upper back. You can also do this one arm at a time or roll slightly onto your opposite side for a deeper stretch.
The foam roller can also actually massage those tense muscles. Turn the foam roller sideways and rest your upper back on it. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows out to the sides. With your knees bent, lift your bottom off the floor like a bridge. While keeping your abdominals engaged, roll slowly over the roller from your neck to the area just above your lower back and back again. Take it slowly over your muscles as you feel the roller rubbing away your tension.
Extending the upper back over the roller will once again give you a therapeutic stretch for several tight muscles. Let your bottom rest on the floor and keep the roller at your shoulder blades or just below. Your head is still resting in your hands. As you exhale, let your head and upper back extend slightly to feel your shoulders, pectorals and upper back muscles stretch wonderfully over the roller.
Put the roller aside and get on your hands and knees to stretch the hard-to-target area around your shoulder blades. With your knees hip-distance apart, slide your right arm under your body between your left hand and knee until your shoulder rests on the floor. You should feel a good stretch in your shoulder and the muscles surrounding your shoulder blade. Stay there and breathe until you are ready to come up. Repeat this on the other side. After you have stretched both sides, go into the cat stretch. As you inhale, round your back up to the ceiling, feeling the stretch across your upper back. Round up as far as you can, then exhale as you slowly come back to the starting position. Repeat this stretch a few times to end your session feeling refreshed and relaxed.
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