Neck pain is more common than you might think, and it has all sorts of causes from bad posture and neck strain, to arthritis and disc degeneration.
Whether your neck has become locked in an awkward position or you need to relieve neck pain associated with a more complex condition, foam rolling may offer some relief.
Sure, you may not typically associate foam rolling with the neck, but boy does it have some great benefits! Here are a few foam rolling exercises you can try today to relieve neck pain and tension.
What Is Neck Tension?
Neck tension is a term used to refer to a type of neck pain that occurs when your muscles are sore and unable to relax properly. This tension can lead to further soreness, muscle spasms, and pain in other areas of the body, including the shoulders.
The top of the spine can also be found in the neck which can sometimes be a cause of neck pain and tension, too.
Neck pain or tension can either develop suddenly or gradually. If you’ve slept in an uncomfortable position overnight, you may wake up to a large amount of tension in your neck, or it may even develop suddenly if you’ve strained a muscle during exercise.
If your neck pain or tension is persistent but not the result of a health issue, it may be due to bad posture.
Some symptoms that you’re suffering from neck tension can include:
- Muscle tightness or stiffness
- Muscle spasms in the neck
- Struggling to turn your head in one or both directions
- Pain that gets worse when you’re in certain positions
Foam Roller Exercises To Relieve Neck Pain
Before we introduce these simple exercises, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t actually be placing the foam roller on your neck.
You could end up doing more harm than good by squishing the vertebrae in your neck onto the roller, so you should aim to position it at the base of your skull (otherwise known as the occipital bone).
The ‘Head Nods’
First up, you can try the ‘head nods’ exercises on your foam roller. There are two exercises you can do here – nodding ‘yes’ and nodding ‘no’.
To perform the nodding up and down (‘yes’) exercise, place the roller at the base of your skull and push your chin inward to your chest. Then, lift the chin and the nose up toward the sky.
To perform the alternative nodding exercise (nodding ‘no’), move your chin slightly in toward your chest and start gently nodding your head from side to side. Ensure the roller is kept at the base of the skull to support the bottom of your head.
We’d recommend performing each exercise for between 30-60 seconds to relieve tension.
Alternatively, you can try the ‘nose circles’ exercise. Essentially, you’ll want to imagine there’s a circle in front of your nose. You’re going to move your head to try and trace this circle.
Start by leaning your head slightly to one side, with the roller still sitting at the base of your skull. Then, start tracing the imaginary circle 5 times in each direction.
Again, you should be performing this exercise for between 30-60 seconds to relieve tension.
The ‘Wiggly Head’
Next up, we have the ‘wiggly head’ exercise, which in case you hadn’t guessed, simply requires you to wiggle your head on the foam roller.
To get the right movement, you should imagine you’re tracing an infinity sign shape with your nose – this will give you the right wiggle! Keep the foam roller at the base of your skull, and perform this movement for between 15-30 seconds in each direction.
Other Neck Tension Exercises And Stretches
If you don’t have a foam roller to hand, or you want to perform a few more stretches after your roller exercises, try performing a few of these alternative movements to relieve tension:
Seated Neck Stretch
When you’re sitting comfortably, put your left hand below your buttocks and your right hand at the top of your head. Slowly pull your head to the right until your head is almost touching your shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat.
Cheek Push Stretch
Put your right hand on your right cheek, and turn to the left while pushing your right cheek as you look over your shoulder. Push your cheek as far as you can and hold for 15-30 seconds.
The Bottom Line
Foam rollers are a great way to relieve neck pain and tension caused by strain or underlying health issues. Just remember to keep the roller at the base of your skull to avoid putting extra pressure on your nerves, and perform each exercise for between 30-60 seconds for the most relief.