Foam Roller Exercises for the Neck

Foam rollers are an effective rehab and training tool, available in a variety of sizes, materials and densities. Cervical stretching, strengthening, and stability exercises, as well as self-massage and myofascial release, can all be performed on the foam roller. Daily foam rolling facilitates postural alignment of the neck and provides pain relief by focusing on tight knots or bands within neck muscles. Be careful not to overtreat your neck, especially at first. Consult with a health care professional if you have serious neck issues.

A woman is learning foam roller techniques. (Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images)

Back of the Neck

Laying flat on your back, place the foam roller sideways under your neck, keeping your head up and lifting your hips off the floor slowly until all your weight is on your neck muscles. You may want to look slightly to the left or right so the roller is hitting muscle tissue, not bone. Very little actual rolling is involved with the neck, rather the roller is placed under a sensitive or knotted spot and the pressure on that spot is gradually increased, remaining there until it releases, but no longer than a minute. To move higher, lift your neck off the roller and place it back down just above the previous spot.

Side of the Neck

Laying on your side, place the roller sideways under your neck, and once again slowly lift your hips until most of your weight is on the side of your neck. Stop if the area is too painful and only put as much weight on your neck as is comfortable. Let your neck adjust to the curvature of the roller, gradually and gently releasing tension. Don’t roll, just place your tender, knotted neck muscle areas on the roller and remain still for a minute. Make sure to do both sides of your neck to maintain balance.

Shoulders and Upper Back

Tightness in the shoulders and upper back can radiate into your neck. Lay the foam roller flat on the floor and sit on one end of it. Lay back so the roller is under your spine longways, in a parallel direction. Roll side-to-side slowly over the roller while maintaining an imaginary glass of water on your stomach without spilling it. Gradually increase your range of motion as you get more comfortable and balanced. Focus on the muscles in between your shoulder blades and up to the base of your neck until you find the knots and then roll them out. Turning your head in the opposite direction from the movement of your pelvis will allow for additional stretching of the neck muscles.

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