7 Upper back stretches for pain relief and relaxation

Imagine a life where your upper back is a refuge of relaxation and liberation rather than a cause of continual pain.

These stretches have been specifically chosen and improved to target the underlying causes of your discomfort, offering quick relief while taking care of the underlying problems.

Say goodbye to agony and hello to a life where your upper back is supple and pain-free. As we explore the seven best stretches for the upper back, be ready to uncover a world of comfort and relaxation.

It’s time to regain control of your health and officially waves upper back pain goodbye!

What are the common causes and triggers of upper back pain?

Understanding the causes of upper back pain can help you make wise decisions and take proactive steps to reduce and eventually get rid of it. Here are some common causes:

1. Poor posture

One of the main causes of upper back pain is poor posture. The muscles and ligaments in the upper back might experience excessive stress from slouching, hunching over computers or workstations and maintaining poor alignment [1]. This causes muscular imbalances and persistent soreness over time.

poor posture
Photograph: LeylaCamomile/Envato

2. Muscle tension and tightness

There may be stiffness and tension in the upper back muscles due to stress, overuse or protracted periods of inactivity. In addition to reducing blood flow and limiting the range of motion, tight muscles can contribute to discomfort and stiffness.

3. Sedentary lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle with little movement or physical activity can exacerbate upper back discomfort. The muscles that support the upper back become weaker from lack of activity, making them more vulnerable to strain and injury [2].

4. Repetitive strain

The muscles, tendons and ligaments of the upper back can get strained from repeated motions or activities requiring the upper back. These include carrying heavy things, working at a computer for extended periods, or sports-related movements.

4. Injury or trauma

Accidents, slips and falls, and direct damage to the upper back can result in immediate and long-term discomfort. To promote appropriate recovery and prevent persistent pain, injuries, including sprains, strains and fractures, require comprehensive medical care and rehabilitation.

5. Age-related degeneration

As we age, natural wear and strain on the spine might result in degenerative disorders like osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease [3]. Pain in the upper back, stiffness and decreased mobility can be brought on by these aging-related changes.

6. Emotional stress

Physical signs of stress and mental strain include muscle stiffness and soreness throughout the body, particularly the upper back. Emotional stress can worsen upper back pain already present or start new attacks of the condition.

How can you benefit from stretching if you suffer from upper back pain

A potent and all-natural treatment for upper back discomfort, stretching has many advantages. Regular stretching can relieve discomfort, increase flexibility and enhance your health in general. 

Let’s look at some of the many benefits of stretching for upper back pain:

1. Relieves muscle tension

Stretching aids in easing upper back muscular stiffness and stress. Stretching facilitates better blood flow, oxygenation and nutrition delivery to the injured regions by lengthening the muscles. This tension release has the potential to lessen pain right away.

2. Improves flexibility

Upper back stretches to focus on the local joints, ligaments and muscles to improve flexibility and range of motion. Increased flexibility encourages improved posture and general mobility while lowering the risk of muscular strains and accidents [4].

3. Relieves pain and discomfort

The body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, are released when you stretch. These endorphins can lessen pain perception and increase feelings of well-being. Stretching aids in relaxation and lowers tension, which can worsen upper back discomfort.

4. Corrects postural imbalances

Lower back discomfort frequently results from poor posture. By strengthening weak muscles and extending tight ones, stretching exercises that target the upper back and related muscles can help address postural abnormalities [5]. Better alignment and less tension on the upper back result from this.

5. Enhances spinal health

Regular stretching increases the spine’s pliability and mobility, particularly in the thoracic area, which makes up the upper back. Increased spinal mobility lowers the risk of degenerative diseases, fosters proper spinal alignment and aids in maintaining the health of the intervertebral discs.

7 Best stretches you can do for your upper back pain

Now that we know how effective stretching is in releasing tension and stiffness in your upper back muscles.

You may gradually increase your flexibility, relieve discomfort and support a healthier spine by including these exercises in your everyday practice. Keep in mind that stretching requires consistency.

Try to do these stretches at least once every day, and if any of them are excruciatingly painful, stop doing them right once and see a doctor.

1. Shoulder blade squeeze

Starting with the shoulder blade squeeze is a great stretch since it opens up your chest, improves posture, and relieves upper back stiffness.

For this, you need to: 

  • Straighten your back, standing or sitting, and keep your shoulders loose.
  • Imagine attempting to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades while you squeeze them together.
  • Release after holding the position for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Ten to fifteen times, pinch the shoulder blades.

2. Upper trapezius stretch

In the upper back, the upper trapezius muscle is frequently the cause of stress and discomfort [6]. This stretch relieves tension in that muscle and encourages relaxation.

For this, you need to: 

  1. Relax your shoulders when you stand or sit erect.
  2. Bring your right ear near your right shoulder as you gradually tilt your head to the right.
  3. The left side of your head should be stretched more by placing your right hand there and gently applying pressure.
  4. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds while feeling the stretch in your upper back and left side of your neck.
  5. Repetition is required on the other side while tilting your head to the left and resting your left hand on your head’s right side.
  6. Do this stretch twice or three times on each side.

3. Cat-camel stretch

The cat-camel stretch is a gentle, flowing movement that helps to mobilize your spine, relieving tension in the upper back and promoting flexibility.

For this, you need to:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
  2. Begin by arching your back towards the ceiling, tucking your chin towards your chest, and imagining you’re a cat stretching.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds, feeling the stretch along your entire spine.
  4. Next, slowly lower your back, allowing your belly to sink towards the floor, and lift your head to look forward, resembling a camel’s hump.
  5. Repeat this flow between the cat and camel positions for 10-12 repetitions, focusing on smooth and controlled movements.
Thoracic extension stretch
Photograph: photobac/Envato

4. Thoracic extension stretch

By focusing on the mid-back region, the thoracic extension stretch helps to improve mobility and lessen upper back discomfort brought on by bad posture or stiffness [7].

For this, you need to:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Place a foam roller or rolled-up towel horizontally on the floor beneath your shoulder blades.
  • Gently lie back, allowing your upper back to rest on the foam roller/towel.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor for support.
  • Interlace your hands behind your head and gently tuck your chin towards your chest.
  • Slowly extend your upper back over the foam roller/towel, arching backward.
  • Hold this position for 15-20 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch in your upper back.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the stretch for 2-3 sets.

5. Child’s pose

The child’s posture is a soothing stretch that targets the entire back, gently stretching the muscles in the upper back and encouraging relaxation.

For this, you need to:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Sit back on your heels and slowly lower your upper body towards the floor, allowing your forehead to rest on the ground.
  3. Extend your arms forward or alongside your body, whichever is more comfortable.
  4. Take slow, deep breaths and focus on relaxing your upper back and shoulders.
  5. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch along your spine.
  6. Slowly come out of the pose by using your hands to push yourself back up to a seated position.

6. Chest opener stretch

By preventing the forward-rounded posture frequently linked to upper back discomfort, the chest opening stretch encourages improved alignment and releases stress.

For this, you need to:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Clasp your hands behind your back, with your palms facing inward.
  3. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your hands away from your body, keeping your arms straight.
  4. Slowly lift your chest and gaze towards the ceiling, feeling a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders.
  5. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds, taking deep breaths.
  6. Release the stretch and repeat 2-3 times.

7. Seated twist

The seated twist stretch facilitates increased spinal mobility, tension release, and upper back pain relief.

For this, you need to:

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your right hand outside your left thigh, near your knee.
  3. Inhale deeply and lengthen your spine.
  4. Exhale as you gently twist your torso to the left, using your right hand to assist the twist.
  5. Place your left hand on the back of the chair for support.
  6. Keep your hips facing forward and avoid forcing the twist.
  7. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds while maintaining relaxed breathing.
  8. Slowly release the twist and repeat on the opposite side, placing your left hand outside your right thigh.
  9. Perform 2-3 sets of twists on each side.

This article’s discussion of the top 7 stretches for the upper back provides practical solutions for reducing upper back discomfort and fostering a healthy upper back.

Always pay attention to your body, stretch with good technique and ask a professional for help if necessary.

You may improve your health by including these stretches in your routine and developing other good habits.

[1] https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/upper-back-pain/causes-upper-back-pain
[2] https://www.physio-pedia.com/Inactivity_and_Low_Back_Pain
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560772/
[4] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934575/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5721192/
[7] https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/thoracic-mobility-exercises

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