8 Ways to Get Out ‘Desk-Sitting’ Kinks With a Foam Roller

by Taru Fisher on August 8, 2016

Rolling your body on a foam roller is an easy and inexpensive way to give yourself a massage, to stretch certain muscles and to relieve pain caused by trigger points – the sensitive spots or “knots” in your muscles. Foam rolling is not an exact science. Trigger points are hyped as the cure-all for pain when in fact they are poorly understood. There is still much research to be done on what is actually happening with trigger points, muscles and pain. But that does not negate the effectiveness of certain foam rolling techniques nor the pleasure they bring when your body relaxes.

The foam roller techniques below cover the parts of your body that are most affected by constant sitting. Done regularly 3-4 times a week, they can help stretch out tight muscles and relax your body.

A few thoughts to keep in mind:

  • these techniques may hurt but they do not need to be excruciating,
  • if a point is particularly painful, ease into it, do not attack it directly,
  • in all of these techniques you want your body to relax into the foam roller. If you can’t do this because the pain is too great then you must back away from the trigger point until you can relax,
  • concentrate on a trigger point for 20-30 seconds – more is not better.
  1. Back, shoulders, chest:
    • Lie down on the roller so that it is directly beneath your spine and your head is fully supported by the roller. Let your arms relax by your sides with your palms up. Sweep your arms upwards towards your head keeping the backs of your hands in contact with the floor. Your aim is to get your hands over your head and have the backs of your hands touching the floor. This may take some practice. Do not push yourself into a position of pain.
    • Now do the same motion with your palms facing the floor. There will be a point (at about 125° away from your sides) where the palms of your hands can no longer remain on the floor – stop at this point.
    • Bend your elbows so that your palms are face up and are close to your shoulders. Let your arms hang from your body as your chest stretches. Then move your arms in the same move as above keeping your elbows bent.
  2. Buttocks, hip rotators (gluteals, piriformis): Sit on the foam roller so it is perpendicular to your body. Place your right ankle on your left knee and lean towards your right side. Use your right hand to support yourself. Roll back and forth looking for that tender spot. Repeat the procedure on the other side of your body.
  3. Small hip muscle – greatly affected by sitting (tensor fasciae latae – TFL): Your TFL is a hip flexor and abductor muscle which can easily become tightened from lots of sitting. Locate your TFL by sitting on a chair and placing your fingers on your hip bone. Move your fingers from your hip bone towards the bend in your hip. This is where your TFL is located. You may even find tenderness with just the pressure from your fingers. To foam roll this area, lie so the crease between your hip bone and thigh is on the foam roller. Do a very small roll in the direction of your hip bone and then in the direction of your knee. Sometimes leaning more forward from the verticle or backwards from the vertical can allow you to find the most tender spots. Do both sides.
  4. Spinal flexibility (do not do this if you have lower back pain):
    • Lay your shoulders on the roller with it perpendicular to your body. Start at the top of your shoulder blades (do not go as high as your neck) with your hips up and roll until the roller is beneath your shoulder blades (do not go further), again looking for tender spots.
    • Next with the roller at the base of your shoulder blades support your head with your hands, drop your hips to the ground and slowly lower your upper back and head to the ground, going only as far as is comfortable. The more you practice this move the more flexibility you will gain in your back, eventually being able to touch your head to the floor.
  5. Sides, upper back, back of shoulders (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rear deltoid): Place the roller perpendicular to your body. Lie on your right side on the roller with your right arm outstretched and your right hip on the floor. Lean backwards (45° away from vertical) so that you stay on your back muscles and avoid impinging the lymph nodes under your armpit. Roll from the height of the top of your armpit to beneath your shoulder blade. Repeat on the left side of your body.

For those of you who spend much of your day sitting, stretching (including foam rolling) plays an important roll in relieving stress and keeping your body free of pain. Try adding foam rolling to your exercise routine. Just remember: moderation and gentleness – if you come away from the experience light-headed because of all the pain you’ve just inflicted on yourself, you’ve missed the point.


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