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Best Stretches For Upper Back Pain

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Best Stretches For Upper Back Pain November 30, 2018

Did you bend to pick something up and felt a sharp pain in your upper back? Does doing even simple things like lifting a cup worsen the pain? While upper back pain is not as common as lower back pain, it not any less painful.

The good news is that there are a series of stretches that can help alleviate upper back pain. Would you like to know more about these stretches? Keep reading to find out.

Table Of Contents

What Causes Upper Back Pain?

A variety of factors can trigger back pain, like:

  • Strain or injury to the back muscles due to overuse
  • Poor posture
  • A pinched nerve in the spine or close to your ribs
  • Fractured backbone
  • Damaged or displaced spinal disc (Herniated disc)
  • Osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage protecting your bones to wear down
  • A chronic pain disorder called myofascial pain syndrome that is caused by repetitive contraction of the muscles.
  • Issues with the gallbladder, such as gallstones

Let us now look at the factors that put an individual at a higher risk of developing upper back pain.

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Risk Factors

The risk factors for upper back pain include:

  • Advancing age
  • Weak muscles
  • Obesity
  • Underlying medical conditions like sciatica, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, or even cancer
  • Smoking

The sensation of pain in the upper back could vary from one person to another. Here are some common symptoms associated with upper back pain.

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Signs And Symptoms

The pain that occurs is often described in the following terms:

  • Stiffness
  • Aching
  • Sharp
  • Burning
  • Crampy

Some individuals may also exhibit other serious symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness in both the arms and legs
  • Tingling
  • Numbness in the arms, legs, belly, and chest
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Upper back pain can result from mild to severe factors. It could be the result of something as minute as the overuse of your back muscles to something as serious as cancer.

Hence, it is best to get yourself checked by a medical professional if you are suffering from severe and chronic back pain. However, if any intense exercise or muscle strain has been causing the upper back pain, here are a few back stretches (both exercises well as yoga poses) that may help.

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Best Stretches To Get Rid Of Upper Back Pain

  1. Pectoralis Stretch (Standing Wall Stretch)
  2. Thoracic Extension
  3. Arm Slide On Wall (Shoulder Rotation)
  4. Scapular Squeeze
  5. Mid-Trap Exercise – Prone Shoulder Horizontal Abduction
  6. Thoracic Stretch – Rolling Spine
  7. Quadruped Arm And Leg Raise
  8. Rowing Exercise
  9. Cobra Pose
  10. Downward Dog Pose
  11. Postural Correction
  12. Thread The Needle

Upper Back Strengthening Stretches For Upper Back Pain

1. Pectoralis Stretch (Standing Wall Stretch)

Pectoralis Stretch (Standing Wall Stretch) Pinit

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What You Have To Do
  1. Stand at an arm’s length from a wall.
  2. Press your palms against the wall at shoulder height.
  3. Lean towards the wall with your upper body, but without moving your palms.
  4. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
Why This Works

This helps in relaxing tense shoulder and back muscles.

Repetitions

10-12

Sets

3

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2. Thoracic Extension

Thoracic Extension Pinit

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What You Have To Do
  1. Kneel in front of a desk or a box strong enough to hold your weight.
  2. Place your elbows on the bench in such a way that they are shoulder-width apart.
  3. Kneel far enough from the bench so that you have ample space to drop your chest through the arms and extend your spine.
  4. With your knees firmly planted on the ground, press your chest towards the ground with your elbows bearing the weight.
  5. Extend your spine as much as possible.
  6. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds.
  7. Go back to the initial position.
Why This Works

Thoracic extension exercises can help stretch the muscles of your back, thereby relaxing and strengthening it.

Repetitions

10-12

Sets

3

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3. Arm Slide On Wall (Shoulder Rotation)

What You Have To Do
  1. Stand against a wall with your glutes, shoulders, and head touching it.
  2. Put your hands out to your sides, touching the wall at 90 degrees.
  3. Draw in your abdominal muscles towards your spine.
  4. Lift your arms overhead while your shoulder blades and arms are planted to the wall.
  5. Don’t shrug or stoop your shoulders or allow your lower back to arch.
  6. Hold this position for about 5 seconds and then return to the initial position.
Why This Works

This stretch works great for your biceps, shoulders, and upper back. It can help alleviate the pain caused by muscle strains.

Repetitions

12-15

Sets

3

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4. Scapular Squeeze

What You Have To Do
  1. Stand tall with your back straight.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades towards your back but slightly lower such that your elbows are pulled back and inward.
  3. Hold the position for about 5 seconds.
  4. Return to the initial position.
  5. If you go to a gym, you may try out the seated cable rows and barbell rows as they serve the same purpose.
Why This Works

Scapular squeeze aims at stretching your scapulae that include muscles as well as bones. This stretch increases the strength and flexibility of the scapulae.

Repetitions

10-12

Sets

3

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5. Mid-Trap Exercise – Prone Shoulder Horizontal Abduction

What You Have To Do
  1. Lie flat on your front on an elevated surface, such as a single bed.
  2. Allow your arms to rest on either side in a ‘T’.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades as you lift one of your arms to its maximum.
  4. Lower your arms and repeat.
Why This Works

Mid-trap exercises often concentrate on the middle trapezius muscles. They help in increasing the flexibility and strength of these muscles.

Repetitions

10-12

Sets

3

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6. Thoracic Stretch – Rolling Spine

What You Have To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat with your knees at right angles to the floor, and your palms flat on the mat.
  2. Raise your head and slowly pull your knees toward your abdomen.
  3. Rock back and forth slowly, such that you are rolling your spine, one vertebra at a time.
  4. Go back to the initial position and repeat.
Why This Works

Thoracic stretches, like the rolling spine, help in stretching your thoracic area. This helps relieve tight and painful muscles.

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7. Quadruped Arm And Leg Raise

Quadruped Arm And Leg Raise Pinit

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What You Have To Do
  1. Sit on your hands and knees on a yoga or exercise mat.
  2. Your arms should be just below your shoulders, and your knees right below your hips.
  3. Extend one leg and the arm opposite to it such that it is aligned with your body.
  4. Return to the initial position and complete the repetitions.
  5. Repeat for the other leg and arm.
Why This Works

The quadruped arm and leg raise helps strengthen your core and gives proper alignment to your spine.

Repetitions

10-12

Sets

3

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8. Rowing Exercise

Rowing Exercise Pinit

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What You Have To Do
  1. Sit erect with your legs and arms straight out.
  2. Pull your elbows back downwards.
  3. Move your body back and forth so that you are leaning slightly back when you pull your arms towards the chest.
  4. You can also fully bend your knees to the “catch” position as you complete a full stroke.
  5. Move back to the initial position and repeat.
  6. You can also carry out this workout at a gym.
Why This Works

Rowing is great for your arms, legs, core, and back. It helps in strengthening your muscles and promoting flexibility.

Repetitions

10

Sets

3

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9. Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose Pinit

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What You Have To Do
  1. Lie flat on your stomach on a yoga mat.
  2. Plant your toes on the floor, with your forehead resting on the ground.
  3. Keep your feet together, with your heels slightly touching each other.
  4. Place your hands under your shoulders, and keep your elbows close to your torso.
  5. Take a deep breath and slowly lift your chest, head, and abdomen while your navel is still touching the ground.
  6. Pull your torso back with your weight on your hands.
  7. Arch your back as far as possible and then tilt your head and look up.
Why This Works

Cobra Pose strengthens the entire back and shoulders.

Repetitions

10-12

Duration

15-30 seconds

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10. Downward Dog Pose

Downward Dog Pose Pinit

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What You Have To Do
  1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees.
  2. Your knees should be right below your hips, and your arms a little in front of your shoulders.
  3. Spread your palms and toes on the ground.
  4. Take a deep breath and exhale as you lift your knees away from the floor.
  5. Initially, keep your knees half bent and lift the heels away from the floor.
  6. Now, lengthen your tailbone away from your pelvis and towards your pubis.
  7. Push your thighs back and forth along with your heels.
  8. Straighten your knees slightly but don’t lock them.
  9. Firm the thighs, arms, and your shoulder blades.
Why This Works

It helps in strengthening your bones and muscles and alleviates back pain.

Duration

1-3 minutes

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11. Posture Correction

What You Have To Do
  1. Kneel on your right knee and place your left foot on the floor.
  2. Place both your hands on the left thigh and bend your hip forward until you feel a stretch in your hip flexors.
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles and tilt your pelvis back slightly.
  4. Keep your chin parallel to the ground.
  5. Hold this pose for 20-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
How This Works

This stretch helps in correcting your posture, which is one of the many triggers of upper back pain.

Repetitions

10

Sets

3

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12. Thread The Needle

Thread The Needle Pinit

Shutterstock

What You Have To Do
  1. Place your elbows right under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips.
  2. Keep your head in a neutral position in the center.
  3. As you exhale, slide your right arm underneath the left arm as your palm faces upwards.
  4. Your right shoulder should touch the mat.
  5. As you rest your right ear and cheek against the mat, gaze towards your left.
  6. Your left elbow should be lifted, and your hips raised.
  7. Don’t press your entire weight on your head.
  8. Adjust your position such that you don’t strain your neck or shoulder.
  9. Allow your upper back to broaden and your lower back to relax.
  10. Hold this position for a minute and then release the pose.
  11. Repeat on the other side.
Why This Works

This pose can help relieve stiffness and pain in the upper back.

Duration

1-2 minutes

In addition to these stretches, here are a few tips that can help you deal with upper back pain as well as prevent its recurrence.

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Prevention Tips

  • Practice good posture, be it at work or at home.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Do cardio workouts and strength training.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Consume healthy food.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Manage your stress levels.

A combination of these tips and stretches can alleviate your upper back pain to a certain extent.

However, if the pain persists, it is best to consult a doctor to find out the cause of the pain.

Did this post help address your concerns? Do you know of any other stretches that can help? Tell us in the comments section.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How should I sleep with upper back pain?

Certain sleeping positions can help improve back pain. Try sleeping with a pillow in between or underneath your legs for support. Those who sleep on their side can keep the pillow in between the knees and draw it towards your chest.

Do massages help upper back pain?

Yes, certain therapeutic massages can alleviate symptoms of back pain and also improve your range of motion.

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