How to Foam Roll the Shoulders and Neck: The Relief you Need

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If you suffer from pain in the shoulders and neck, then you might be trying to find some relief. If this is the case for you, then you’ve definitely come to the right place.

We’re going to give you the rundown on rolling out your shoulders and neck, along with our top-rated foam roller that will work for this area of your body. Finally, we’ll give you some general tips for preventing this problem from happening in the first place.

Keep on reading for all the information you need to know about how to deal with neck and shoulder pain!

Are Foam Rollers Ideal for the Shoulders and Neck?

The foam roller is an excellent sporting equipment that you should acquire. Its primary function is to help muscle recovery, in addition to improving elasticity and range of movement. It is an amazing little tool and has high impact on your sports performance.

In recent years, the use of foam roller has become widespread. At the time it was a self-massage technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists; but currently, the foam roller is an everyday practice for athletes at all levels of fitness.

Our muscles and organs are surrounded by “fascia,” a very resistant connective tissue that gives support and protection to the whole organisms. Using the foam roller helps to keep the fascia in good condition because it allows greater oxygenation and circulation of blood in the muscles. You can easily foam roll shoulders and more to find relief!

Comparison Chart

51jOvbox cL. SL500
LuxFit Extra Firm Speckled Foam Roller with Online Instructional Video (Blue, 18-Inch)
514ROP4p9dL. SL500
321 STRONG Foam Roller – Medium Density Deep Tissue Massager for Muscle Massage and Myofascial Trigger Point Release, with 4K eBook – Fluorescent Lime
41+1lH+GP0L. SL500
TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller with Free Online Instructional Videos, Original (13-Inch), Black

What Does Foam Rolling Do?

Do you want relief from upper body pain? Then keep on reading to learn more about what foam rolling can do for you.

The foam roller is also called myofascial release. What is fascia? And why is it so important to release it?

The fascia is the thin tissue that connects your muscles. Think of it as the internal packaging of your body: it helps the muscle groups to cooperate as integrated units. When you are healthy, the fascia is flexible and slides smoothly over your muscles. But the overload in your fascia can be formed for a variety of reasons, such as muscle injuries, inactivity, illness, inflammation or trauma. Sitting in front of a desk all day can cause your fascia to “stick” and stiffen.

What Exactly is a Foam Roller?

A foam roller is a cylinder usually made of foam or flexible plastic that can be placed in a variety of positions, allowing the natural weight of the body to exert intense pressure on the affected muscle groups.

The better the fascia stays in the body, the better you will move, and the better your sports performance will be.Thus, this recovery therapy can reduce the possibility of post-workout injuries and pain, increase your flexibility, improve your athletic performance, accelerate the recovery times of an injury, and release muscle tension.

There is a reason for the popularity of the foam roller: this self-massage technique is simple and works.

How to Foam Roll the Neck

Five Reasons to Use a Foam Roller

There are a number of reasons why you might consider foam rolling besides personal care. Here are just a few of them.

1. Prevents injuries

The foam roller is a tool to obtain a self-myofascial release. Which allows the normal flow of blood to return to the muscles and restore tissue. This is because it targets specific areas with a benefit almost immediately.

2. Eliminates lactic acid in the body

Lactic acid can cause cramping, pain, heaviness, and burning. The rolling foam releases the accumulation of said acid and manages to maintain the body optimally. If you can exercise for longer without fatigue, it can be a sign that your foam rolling routine is working (and also that your fitness level is increasing).

3. Improves mobility and flexibility

When you have a negative muscle tension, it can cause the body to be rigid for a long time. These rollers can make the muscles more receptive and they will help keep those muscles moving. So, that they work efficiently and thereby improve flexibility in general.

4. Relieves pain

Thanks to the foam roller you can release the pressure points that usually cause discomfort, relaxing the contracted muscles as if it were a massage. Remember that a bit of pain is right, but this does not mean that tolerance to pain should be put to the test.

5. Reduces cellulite

Having a good blood flow can help eliminate toxins from the muscles, which means that the foam roller helps minimize the appearance of cellulite significantly.

Learn more here:

How to Get Rid of Cellulite

Learn How to Fix Upper Neck and Back Pain with a Foam Roller

How to Use the Foam Roller: Neck and Shoulders

Place the roller on the affected area and remember, it is better to be soft than too hard.

You can feel sensitivity when going through the tissue, but it should not be agonizing. You’ll want to press hard enough to release the fascia, but you shouldn’t bruise yourself for example.

Divide Muscle Groups into Segments

To be straightforward, it is useful to divide the muscle you are working into three segments: lower, middle and upper. Give each section adequate passes up and down, go to the next part, and then end with giving a pass to the entire length of your muscle.

Go More In-Depth With Each Pass

With each step through the muscle group, you can work more in-depth into the tissue for more significant release.

You will find several trigger points throughout the body. When you reach an especially painful or tight point, pause and try to relax. Take a moment, and the muscle should be released. For more precise areas, go with something more advanced. As you get to test your body and how it responds to foam rolling, you can go more in-depth as needed.

Start Slowly, and then Go Slowly

Generally, you should work each muscle area for around 30 seconds before moving on. This allows for time for the trigger point to release.

So, begin by moving the roller on a specific part of the body. When you notice tightness or pain, that’s probably a spot that needs to be released. Focus on that spot to loosen the muscles up, get rid of knots and find relief.

Avoid the Spine

If you’re rolling out this area of your body, you may be tempted to tackle the spine. However, remember that this technique works on muscles, not on bone. So, avoid areas like the elbows, shins or spines because you can actually cause injury.

If you need some specific ideas for exercises to relieve neck, shoulder and upper back pain with foam rolling, then check out:

Foam Rolling for Shoulders + Neck.

Foam Rolling Exercises for Shoulders

When to do Foam Rolling for the Shoulders and Neck?

The foam roller can be used before and after your workouts. Before exercise, tissue elasticity, the range of motion and circulation (blood flow) will increase. This can help you move better in your training and protect you from injuries.

Learn more here: When is the Best Time to Foam Roll?

After a Workout to Assist in Recovery

The foam roller after training is an excellent way to improve recovery. Concentrate on all the major muscles you just worked with, with an additional emphasis on the areas that you feel problematic. Stimulating the blood movement in the affected areas will dramatically increase oxygen to the sore muscle fibers and reduce the recovery time.

Most elite cyclists receive regular massage for this reason. While nothing can replace a good sports massage, you can enjoy many of the same benefits at home (or between massages) with a foam roller.

Useful as a Warm-Up too

The Foam Roller can be used both in the warm-up and in the elongation after the training, applying the pressure in all the muscle groups that you worked on that day. Also, it would be a mistake to consider the foam roller only as an occasional tool. If used every day, even for a few minutes, it will help you avoid muscle problems.

As a recommendation, avoid passing it too quickly. The movements with the foam roller should be slow and deliberate. If you move it too fast, the muscles will not have time to adjust and control the compression. As for the pressure that will be exerted, it will depend on each one, depending on our body weight, but in no case, that pressure must be painful.

Also, if there is swelling in any muscle, it is recommended NOT to apply pressure with the roller directly.

How to Foam Roll Out the Shoulders and Lats

What’s your Top Pick for Foam Roller for Neck and Shoulder Pain?

That’s a great question and we’re happy that you asked. There are an almost overwhelming number of choices for shoulder rollers on the market today. It can be very difficult to choose the best one for your needs.

However, one of our top picks is the Rumble Roller. It’s very firm, but it has nubs on it that help to make it less painful. They also assist the roller with getting into all those little nooks and crannies.

Besides that, it’s very reasonably priced and also has some of the best user reviews and ratings among all items on the market today. It really is that good.

I Can’t Get Deep Enough Into My Shoulder Muscles

Maybe you’re kind of like me and get very tight around your shoulders. It can be quite difficult to get in there all the way with someone as large as a foam roller.

That’s where a massage ball can come in handy. While it’s ideal to have someone else release these muscles in your shoulder blades for you, it’s also possible to do it yourself when laying on the floor or leaning against a wall.

You can check out some of our top choices for massage balls here:

Comparison Chart

41HpKN83SQL. SL500
Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Therapy, Muscle Knots, and Yoga Therapy. Set of 2 Firm Balls (2 Orange)
51lXiXmX2fL. SL500
321 STRONG Spike Massage Ball – Foot Massager for Plantar Fasciitis
51+WyfevsNL. SL500
NeeBooFit Massage Ball Set – Deep Tissue, Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy Balls – Lacrosse Ball, Spiky Ball, Double Foam Roller Peanut Ball – for Chronic Pain Relief, Psoas Muscle Release – 3Pack

Or, Consider the Theracane to Hit those Trigger Points for Shoulders and Neck

If you want to hit that area around your shoulders or that specific area in your back that gives you trouble, then you may want to consider the Thera Cane Self-Massager. It’s shaped kind of like a candy cane, and it’s ideal for targeting those little areas which a foam roller may not be good at finding. You can also get into the sides of body parts, like under your shoulder blades quite effectively.

You can learn more about the Theracane Massager here:

Theracane Massager

31DGrWK+OwL. SL500

  • 6 treatment balls for total body massage
  • Measures 24 X 15 X 1
  • Eliminate painful knots in your muscles on your own
  • Ideal after strenuous activities or for relaxation anytime
  • Cane shaped massager for easing aches and pains

Are there Other Things I Can Do to Reduce Shoulder and Neck Pain?

Foam rolling, stretching, or seeing a massage therapist is a way to deal with pain once it happens. However, there are some things you can do to stop the pain from happening at the start. Here are some of our top tips for preventing one of the most common kinds of pain, especially among those who sit for their jobs most of the time:

Work Standing Up, Some of the Time

Sitting all the time is hard on our bodies. We drive to work, sit at desks all day long, drive home, sit down and eat dinner and then relax in front of the TV for a few hours at night.

Spend at least some of that time standing up to relieve pressure on the tired muscles in your body.

That said, standing all the time can be tough on the legs, so ideally, you’d do a mix of both of them throughout the day.

Consider a desk that can be adjusted to either sitting or standing position. Or, use a standing desk and then have a small table with chair next to it to use throughout the day.

Raise your Computer Screen Up

Many people spend the day looking down at their computer screens. This is very hard on your neck and shoulders. Raise up your screen by putting it on a box of some kind.

Or, if you use a laptop, consider getting an external keyboard and putting the screen on a stand of some kind.

Use a Head Set to Protect your Shoulders and Neck

If you talk on the phone all the time, consider getting a headset instead of holding the phone up to your ear. This is particularly true if you cradle the phone with your neck.

Try a New Pillow for Pain in the Shoulders and Neck

If you don’t normally experience shoulder and neck pain but suddenly now are, it may be that your pillow isn’t giving you the support you need.

Try a new one and see if that helps prevent neck and shoulder pain. This is particularly true if you often wake up with a kink in your neck.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is bad for all kinds of things that happen in our body, including our spine. The discs in your vertebrae require water to stay elastic and spongy. When they dry out a little bit, your vertebrae can compress and cause some pain.

Think About your Posture

Ideally, you should stand like you have a string pulling the top of your head towards the ceiling and going down through your spine. Roll your shoulders back and stand tall!

Lose Weight (Maybe)

If you’re overweight, it can cause quite a strain on your body. Consider losing some weight through diet and exercise if this is the case for you and you may just notice that the aches and pains you’re experiencing start to go away. You might also consider working with a trainer at the gym to help you stay motivated along with journey.

Have your Say about Foam Rolling the Shoulders and Neck

Do you have any go-to exercises that help to relieve shoulder and neck pain? And, do you prefer something like a lacrosse ball, or a standard foam roller?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Also be sure to give this article a share on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. It’ll help other people, like yourself who may be experiencing neck or shoulder pain find relief.

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