Top 5 Stretches for Upper Back Pain

upper back stretches

Upper back pain can often be alleviated by simple stretching exercises. Here are five to try before visiting an orthopedic specialist.

If you sit at a desk all day or are constantly peering down at your smartphone, you may suffer from upper back pain. This pain often radiates along your shoulders and neck and even down to your middle and lower back. As with any back pain, it can be debilitating at times and interfere with your daily life.

Lower back pain usually isn’t a cause for alarm, but it shouldn’t be ignored either. Fortunately, the discomfort often diminishes when you perform stretching exercises that relax the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back area. 

5 Stretches for Upper Back Pain

The aim of these five exercises is to loosen stiff, aching muscles so you can enjoy sports and complete daily activities without pain. All can be performed at home and don’t require much extra equipment except a chair, yoga mat, or foam roller. 

Pec Stretch. Your pectoral muscles are the muscles that bind the front of your chest wall to your upper arm and shoulder. To give them a good stretch, stand inside a doorway and place your right forearm on the doorframe with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Step forward with your right leg and twist to the left so you feel the stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat at least three times on each side.

Chair Rotation. Sitting sideways on a chair, your right side should touch the chair back. As you keep your legs stationary, swivel your torso to the right, grabbing onto the back of the chair with your hands. Hold your upper body in that position for 10 seconds, using your arms to stretch and loosen your muscles in the lower and middle back. Do three repetitions on each side.

Overhead Arm Stretch. For this exercise you’ll also need a chair. Sitting face forward with your feet on the ground, reach upward with your right arm so it’s above your head. Bend your torso to the left until you feel the stretch in your right latissimus dorsi muscle, a large muscle in your back that rotates your arms and your shoulders. Return to the starting position and repeat five times on each side. You can also do this exercise from a standing position.

Child’s Pose. Begin by doing a table pose on all fours. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Slowly drop your hips toward the floor so your buttocks touch your feet. As you do that, lower your chest down so it’s resting on your thighs and your forehead touches the floor. Stretch your arms forward so your palms also rest on the floor. Remain in that position for several seconds as you feel the stretch along your upper back. Pushing with your arms, return to the starting position.

Thoracic Extension. Recline on the floor, face up, with a foam roller placed under your thoracic spine, or upper back. Be sure your buttocks touch the floor and your hands are behind your head to support it and the neck. Bend your body backwards. For a deeper stretch, you can extend your arms above your head. You can also do this exercise in a chair: face forward while seated and bend your upper body over the back of the chair. Hold for 10 seconds and do three repetitions.

These stretching exercises along with rest and over-the-counter pain medication should clear up minor pain and unlock tense muscles. If the pain continues after you’ve tried these gentle stretches at home, you should visit an orthopedic specialist who will determine if there is anything more serious going on that needs further treatment.

We’re the Back Specialists

The staff of physicians and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists have many years of experience in treating back pain. We’ll discuss all treatment options, starting with conservative methods like physical therapy. Contact us today for an appointment.

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