For those who own a foam roller, you know how amazing they are, if you don’t yet know, you will soon. When experiencing neck pain you try to find any solution you can to stop the pain, now you’re probably looking at your foam roller. I know I and many people close to me have felt this way and considered it. Although, as someone with a previous neck injury I had to be careful. I’ve had many people how I handle neck pain and also ask me “Is it bad to foam roll your neck?”.
It is not recommended to directly foam roll the neck because this is generally a very risky area and if you have previous neck injuries it is extremely dangerous to foam roll the neck. Alternatively you can relieve neck pain by using a foam roller on the upper back to get rid of any stiffness and tension that could be traveling up into the neck.
Although it can be risky and bad to foam roll your neck, there are ways you can utilize a foam roller to relieve neck pain. I will share some alternative ways you can relieve neck pain and a couple of these tips will include the use of a foam roller. Although, you will not be rolling out the neck, but instead rolling out areas that can help relieve tension in the neck. One other method will utilize the foam roller as support for the neck and self-massager.
Before we begin, if you have a previous neck injury or you’re experiencing severe pain, especially in your neck, it is highly recommended to first consult with a doctor to find out more information about your specific situation. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your specific situation and create a plan to help you manage your pain in the safest way possible. Follow your doctors recommendations over anything online, they know you and your situation best.
Here are some alternative and safer ways to relieve neck pain!
Foam Roll The Upper Back
Although it can be bad to foam roll your neck, foam rolling the upper back is extremely effective. I’ve personally noticed after sitting for long periods of time, my upper back will tighten up, then this will lead to neck pain because the tightness and tension from my upper back travels up into my neck.
To foam roll the upper back, place a foam roller horizontal on the floor and lay on it. Have the foam roller aligned with the middle of your upper back as you lay on it. Now just relax and strength your arms back so they go over your head. Just relax and breathe and feel your chest stretch. Now using your feet, push yourself upwards so you begin foam rolling your upper back. Then come back down to the original position. Do this for 30 seconds slowly and be sure to take deep breaths when doing this.
You will possibly hear a few cracks that happen naturally, don’t force them, just roll your back out and let them naturally happen, you should eventually feel your back becoming much looser and relaxed. After doing this, you should soon start to feel less tension in the neck due to releasing the tension in your upper back. It may be considered bad to foam roll your neck, but it is perfectly fine and very effective to foam roll your upper back. This is a great alternative to do instead of having to foam roll your neck.
Neck Turns Using A Foam Roller
Although you shouldn’t foam roll your neck, you can use the foam roller as support to do neck turns while laying down. This is highly effective and safe, just make sure you don’t try to push your head back. Just rest your neck gently on the foam roller. If you do feel any sudden pain while doing this, stop and move onto the other exercises and massages.
Place a foam roller horizontally on the floor and lay down with your back to the floor, make sure the upper area of your neck is placed on the foam roller. Now slowly turn your head to the right and hold where you feel tension. Breathe out and turn your head to the left. Repeat this for at least 30 seconds.
For a more detailed and illustrated view of this exercise, check out this amazing post from Healthline!
Although it can be bad to foam roll your neck, as you can see, there is still an amazing and safer way to utilize a foam roller to help relieve neck pain and tension. Be sure to not press your neck into the foam roller as this will force your spine to curve and can put you in a dangerous position that can lead to injury or make your pain worse.
Lacrosse Ball Neck Massage
If you have a lacrosse ball this is an amazing tool you can utilize to give yourself a self-massage. This is an amazing alternative from having to foam roll your neck. I suggest doing this while standing and utilizing a wall for this because it will be much safer and extremely effectively.
While standing upright with good posture, stand with your back facing the wall and place a lacrosse ball behind your neck. Use the wall and your neck to hold the lacrosse ball and prevent it from falling. Lean into the lacrosse ball and try to use it to roll over different areas of your neck where you may be feeling tension.
The advantage of a lacrosse ball over having to foam roll your neck is the lacrosse ball can get deeper into the neck while still being safe, especially when done standing against a wall. This will give the muscles in the neck a much more effective massage than a foam roller would.
For more information on using a lacrosse ball to relieve neck pain, check out this article.
This is one of my favorite stretches and I first learned this from my Muay Thai coach. Since then I’ve seen this stretch being recommend everywhere, from doctors and physical therapists, to hundreds of articles online. This is an effective, safe, and very simple stretch you can do anywhere. This is an amazing alternative from having to foam roll your neck.
While sitting or standing upright, keep good posture and a neutral head position. Using your right hand, place your fingers on to your chin and push the chin back, try to keep your head and neck straight. Hold this position for 5 seconds and release. Do this for 8 to 12 repetitions. You should feel a stretch in the back of the neck.
This stretch is extremely effective and much safer than having to foam roll your neck. This can be done anywhere and can be done very quickly. I suggest trying to do this at least twice a day if you are experiencing neck tension, stiffness, or pain.
The key to this stretch is doing them gently and slowly to feel the stretch in the neck through the rotation and to keep the neck safe. This is another simple and effective stretch that can be done anywhere, quickly and easily.
To do this stretch, while sitting or standing upright, keep good posture and head in a neutral position. Tilt your head slowly to the right, then roll it to the back, then to the left, then forward. Relax and breathe. Do this for 8 to 12 repetitions.
This stretch is an amazing alternative from having to foam roll your neck. Instead of attempting to foam roll your neck, this will be a much safer option and will be extremely effective at loosening the neck. After doing this stretch you should feel some tension release from the neck. It is recommend to do this stretch for at least a week if you are experiencing neck pain, as this will help to loosen any stiffness and tension and reduce the pain in your neck.
The alternatives exercises and stretches shared here are all what I personally use to help relieve my neck pain. I have two herniated discs in my neck due to a sports injury and I have been able to comfortably use these stretches and exercises to manage my neck pain and keep myself feeling great. After consistently doing these stretches and exercises I have been able to continue training in my sports, lifting weights, and stay active in anyway I want. These are all amazing alternatives to having to foam roll your neck.
Although it is dangerous to foam roll your neck, foam rolling itself is incredible and extremely effective. I also suggest looking more into using the lacrosse ball for self massages as the lacrosse ball can get deeper into the muscles and can sometimes be much more effective.
If you are experiencing pain at any time during these exercises and stretches I highly suggest seeing a doctor immediately to find out more detailed information about your specific situation and so you doctor can create a plan with you to help relieve your pain.
For more alternative stretches, check out some great articles below!