How to Stretch to Relieve Upper Back Pain

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Upper back pain and tightness are typical complaints among most people today. Especially if you're under a great deal of stress or have bad posture, neck, shoulder, and upper back stretches can help reduce pain and release tight muscles. Practicing correct stretching and strengthening programs is one of the best methods to treat a stiff upper back without having to sacrifice too much of your lifestyle.

So how should you stretch to help relieve upper back pain? The right stretching regimen can target the stressed muscles and help them relax. This helps reduce upper back pain and also makes you more flexible. Continue reading to know more about stretching as a way to relieve upper back pain

Static and Dynamic Stretches for Upper Back Pain

Static StretchingDynamic Stretching
Static stretches are a set of controlled and continuous movements that are useful to relax muscles once you have reached the limit of your range of motion. Dynamic stretches target key muscles and joints by moving them through their full range of motion. 
Static stretching can limit your movement and circulation pattern.Dynamic stretching simulates the activity or movement you'll be doing in your daily life.
It’s best to perform these stretches if your back is extremely stiff or if you want to relax them without the risk of aggravating twisted muscles. Dynamic stretching is a form of muscle activity rehearsal that activates key muscles which can help improve resilience and coordination of upper back muscles. 
Static stretching focuses on holding a particular position to release any stiffness in them completelyDynamic stretching involves engaging the muscles in activities that will enhance mobility and blood flow in the muscles. 
Examples of effective static stretches for upper back pain relief include child’s pose, thoracic extension, doorway stretch, and sphinx pose, among others.Examples of effective dynamic stretches for upper back pain relief include trunk rotation, overhead arm reach, cat-cow pose, high knees, and knees to chest, among others. 

Common Reasons for Upper Back Pain

1) Poor Posture

One of the most common reasons for upper back discomfort and weakness is poor posture. Poor posture and back and neck ailments are becoming more common as a result of a desk job and the growing usage of tech devices by the general public. External rotators can become weak as a result of anteriorly rotated shoulders, as can tight pectorals and hunchback posture.

2) Degeneration of Joints

To be specific, the vertebral facet joints can also be a reason for upper back pain. The degeneration of the vertebral facet joints can cause nerve roots to get compressed since there’s less space for them to pass through.

3) Disc Herniation

A "slipped disc" or disc herniation happens when the disc bulges. The departing nerve root may be compressed or irritated as a result of this. But sometimes, the nerve roots can even be squeezed even without a disc herniation due to degeneration and drying out of the discs with age; this results in a decrease in the height of the intervertebral disc.

4) Muscle Tension

Muscle tension is also a common cause of upper back discomfort (the suprascapular space.) This is the tightening of your upper traps and impingement of the nerve in the region above the shoulder blade. Compressed nerves that pass above the scapula can produce referred neck discomfort, as well as arm pain, numbness, and pins and needles.

5) Overuse of Muscles or Muscle Injury

Overuse and exertion of muscles can also lead to upper back pain. This muscle strain is caused by repetitive activities or motions, or even age. Meanwhile, upper back pain can also be caused due to a traumatic muscle injury that has been left unaddressed.

How Stretching Relieves Upper Back Pain

In order to understand how stretching can relieve upper back pain, it is important to first understand the anatomy of your upper back. There are 4 important muscles present in your upper back: trapezius, erector spinae, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.

1) Trapezius

The trapezius is a 3-part diamond-shaped muscle. They aren't designed to lift a lot of weight, but they're frequently utilized incorrectly when lifting techniques aren't employed correctly. Exercises such as the cat-cow pose, cobra pose, ear-to-shoulder stretch, crocodile pose, and wide-leg forward fold can help loosen these muscles.

2) Erector spinae

On either side of the vertebral column, these lengthy, superficial muscles called erector spinae run like train tracks down the length of your spine. The erector spinae is primarily meant to lengthen the spine and isn't built for heavy lifting or stability. However, they can spasm during back pain episodes. A standing toe touch, modified hurdler stretch, and child’s pose can help relax this region and ease upper back pain. 

3) Rhomboids

Rhomboids are the connective tissue between the shoulder blades and the spine. You can ease pain or discomfort in these muscles by doing a pectoralis stretch, lower neck stretches, and neck rotations. Wall extensions, child’s pose, and rotator cuff stretches can also relax your rhomboids by targeting them directly.

4) Latissimus dorsi

Latissimus dorsi are large wing-shaped muscles present on the back that aid in the movement of the upper back and shoulder function. These muscles are targeted in exercises such as pull-ups and pull-downs. Exercises such as the back bow, pelvic raise, and lat stretches can help alleviate pain from your latissimus dorsi. 

7 Effective Upper Back Stretches

elderly man and woman stretching

1) The Cat-Cow Stretch

The cat-cow stretch is a terrific approach to self-mobilize your thoracic spine because it combines two stretches into one (the upper part of your back). You may gently mobilize each vertebra by going through these two poses, ensuring that the little bones move as they should for daily tasks and don’t become hard and stiff.

Start performing this stretch by getting on your hands and knees. Ensure that your knees are under your hips and your hands are underneath the shoulders. Slowly move your sit bones up while inhaling. 

Move them upwards towards the ceiling while slightly arching your back; bring your head up by pressing your chest towards the floor. This won’t only provide you pain relief for your upper back but will also relax your shoulder blades

Inhale as you go from the "cow" posture to the "angry cat" position, rounding out your back and pulling your shoulder blades away from you while your spine curves in the other direction. Repeat this cycle ten times.

2) Side-Lying Thoracic Stretch

Rotation is one of the essential upper back movements for good mobility. The capacity to twist and rotate can be reduced when so much of life occurs in an anterior-posterior or sagittal plane. This stretch is excellent for increasing spine rotation.

Start out by resting on your left side such that your knees are bent. Keep your arms straight out in front of you while ensuring that your palms are touching. Open up your arm like it’s a door or a book while gently lifting your right hand up off the left hand. 

Make sure you follow the top hand with your eyes until your right hand reaches the other side of the body. You should find your hand in a palm up position with your head turned towards the right. Return to the starting posture with palms facing each other and hold this stretch for a few breaths. Repeat on each side up to 10 times.

3) Child’s Pose With Rotation

Child's pose stretches the back muscles as well as the hips and even the ankles. Start on your hands and knees. Spread your legs apart, keeping your toes together, and then gradually allow your hips to be lowered forward while your arms are outstretched in front of you. Lengthen your lower back by extending your arms forward, palms down on the floor. Hold this position for a few breaths.

For extra impact, you can extend the lats and muscles on the other side of your body by bringing both hands to one side in front of you. After you've felt a good stretch, reach to the opposite side. Each of these stretches can be held for up to 30 seconds. Additionally, you can alternate this with a trunk rotation for effective muscle relaxation.

4) Doorway Stretch

You can also use a doorway to stretch your pecs and upper back. Place one forearm on each side of the entryway. Lean gently forward through the doorway, arms on one side, to stretch out the chest. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Avoid leaning too far forward into the frame when doing this exercise. Stop as soon as you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders as continuing increases your risk of injury.

5) Sphinx Pose

By lying on the floor and holding yourself up on your forearms, you can open up your chest and back. Gently press your forearms into the floor and pull your head and chest up as you inhale. Draw your shoulder blades down and back, and your tailbone lengthens. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

6) Overhead Arm Reach

Begin by sitting or standing while performing the overhead arm reach. Lean to the right while stretching your arms above your head. Use your right hand to pull your left arm to the right to deepen the stretch. Return to the starting position after a 30-second count. On both sides, repeat the stretch a few times.

7) Pec Stretches

Pecs that are too tight might cause rounded shoulders and a tight upper back. Stretch your muscles by lying down on a foam roller with your arms outstretched in the shape of a T or W. In each position, hold for around 30 seconds.

General Tips for Upper Back Pain Management

Trigger pointing, foam rolling, and massages are also effective ways to stretch and lengthen the muscles of the upper back. These strategies are extremely beneficial for muscle rehabilitation following a strenuous workout or event. These stretches and techniques can provide pain relief but may not address the underlying issue. If you got a massage to release your shoulder muscles but neglected to change your bad posture then they'd only tighten up again. 

Proper posture is a must for desk workers who spend hours on their computers while being seated in the same position. It can also be beneficial to conduct an ergonomic assessment of your workstation to ensure that all your devices are in positions that are easily accessible and don’t put stress on your upper back. Additionally, it’s also important to take regular breaks from their desk to extend their neck and shoulders.

Get Access to Effective Upper Back Pain Relief Services at Gramercy Pain Center

a doctor examining a patient

Upper back pain happens a lot in the modern era due to our extensive time spent stationary in front of devices. It can be excruciating and debilitating to deal with chronic upper back pain. We at Gramercy Pain Center are here to provide you with the best pain relief services to help you get back to the best physical health. 

Our team thoroughly analyzes your medical history and precisely identifies your pain situation. This enables us to devise the most effective treatment strategy for alleviating your symptoms and assisting your body in healing properly. To schedule an appointment, call our pain clinic right now.

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