9 Best Stretches for Upper Back Pain in Between Shoulder Blades

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Upper back and shoulder pain are the worst, especially if they’re between the shoulder blades. This kind of uncomfortable pain prevents people from doing even the simplest task because it limits their range of motion. Luckily, there are a few stretching exercises that can help relieve mild to moderate shoulder blade pain and prevent it from turning into chronic pain. 

So what kind of stretching exercises help relieve the upper back pain felt between the shoulder blades? Stretches like trigger point release, trigger point therapy with a self-massage tool, upward plank pose, upper trapezius stretch, shoulder blade stretch, door frame stretch, shoulder rolls, neck release, and scapular retraction are the best ones to try at home to get rid of shoulder blade pain.

How Helpful are Stretching Exercises for Upper Back Pain?

Back pain happens to about 65 million American adults at some point in their lives. There are many possible causes of back pain, like spine problems, injury, trauma, and poor posture. But regardless of what causes your upper, middle, or lower back pain, the discomfort it causes can prevent you from doing the things you love or even simple tasks every day.

Sometimes, the pain in the upper back is also accompanied by a dull or sharp pain in between the shoulder blades. Depending on the cause and severity of your pain, you might find that some stretching exercises can help manage the discomfort so you can move a bit better.

How the Pain Feels Like

Upper back pain in between the shoulder blades may be felt on either the left or right shoulder, but some patients may also experience discomfort on both sides. It can also be acute or chronic pain. Some patients might feel a short but sharp pain caused by sudden muscle tightness or spasm, while others experience a dull ache that lingers and worsens when they breathe deeply.

The pain usually originates between the shoulder blades, but it may also spread to other parts of the upper body and become chest pain and neck pain. It may even extend and develop into middle back pain and low back pain. The muscle strain may also affect some muscle groups including the levator scapula, rotator cuff, upper trapezius muscle, and rhomboid muscle.

Why You’re in Pain

Upper back and shoulder pain are quite common, so it’s difficult to determine its main cause. However, some of the most common reasons why patients might be in pain include:

  • Poor posture
  • Muscle tension caused by stress
  • Improper lifting technique
  • Scoliosis and other spine conditions
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis

9 Stretches to Relieve Upper Back Pain in Between Shoulder Blades

Interscapular pain or the upper back pain you feel between the shoulder blades can be extremely uncomfortable. With the increased use of smartphones and laptops, more people also experience this kind of pain regardless of their age. 

Luckily, there are a few physical therapy techniques like stretches and massages that provide upper back pain relief. Here are some of them:

1) Trigger Point Release Between the Shoulder Blades

This self-massage technique requires a massage ball or something similar to relieve pressure on the trigger points and tight muscle groups near the shoulder blades. Patients may also use a foam roller to apply firmer pressure.

  • Find a tender spot in your upper body using the massage ball.
  • Apply pressure on the spot where you feel pain.
  • Lie down and place the massage ball between the shoulder blades.
  • Once you find the tender spot, hold the ball in place and put more pressure on the spot using your own body weight.
  • Hold the position for about 30 seconds. Don’t let the massage ball roll back and forth.
  • Find another tender spot in the upper back muscles and repeat the entire process.

2) Trigger Point Therapy with Self-Massage Tool

This technique is similar to the first one but instead of a massage ball or foam roller, patients need a massage hook to manually find the tight chest muscles and other trigger points in their upper body. 

  • Use the massage hook while standing in order to reach the spot where the back or chest muscle is tight.
  • Push the left arm down to apply more pressure to the area.
  • Keep applying pressure until you feel a tight muscle release, but waiting for at least 30 seconds should also do the trick.
  • Move the hook through the muscles around the scapula and repeat the entire process until all the tender spots in the upper back are gone.

3) Upward Plank Pose

This kind of stretching pose opens up the chest and shoulders. It’s also a great technique for strengthening the body’s core and enhancing your balancing ability.

  • Sit down with both legs stretched out.
  • Bring your hands behind you while pointing your fingers towards the feet.
  • Keep your feet stretched out as the toes touch.
  • Rotate both legs inwards starting from the hips.
  • Inhale and bring your tummy in as your tailbone reaches toward your feet. You might also need to bend both arms and lower your back a bit to make the position more comfortable.
  • Press into your hands as your feet touch the ground. Your hips must also be lifted.
  • Keep your pelvis tucked in as your core becomes engaged. Lift your chest and draw both shoulders down.
  • Lift your head back and breathe. If this step is painful for you, maintain your eyes forward instead to avoid neck pain.
  • Hold the position for about 30 seconds before slowly exhaling and bringing your hips down.

4) Upper Trapezius Stretch

This type of gentle stretch is recommended for people with poor upper back posture since the trap muscles are often tense, causing the pain to extend to the shoulder blade area. Stretching the upper trapezius muscle is essential in lessening the pain and encouraging good posture.

  • Sit on a chair and put your right hand over the left side of the head.
  • Gently tug your head towards your right shoulder until there’s a stretch that isn’t too painful.
  • Hold this position for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the entire exercise on the other side of your head using your left hand.

5) Shoulder Blade Stretch

Stretching the shoulder blades is a great follow-up exercise to self-massage techniques. The shoulder stretch works best for releasing muscle tension and tightness around the deltoids and rhomboids.

  • Place the right elbow on top of your left elbow. Make sure that your elbows are nearly parallel to your shoulder height.
  • Interlace your left hand around the right arm.
  • Apply more pressure until you feel a slight upper back stretch.
  • Hold the position for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the entire process on the other side.

6) Door Frame Stretch

Any doorway at home can be used for this upper back stretch. The door frame stretch is great for releasing tight chest muscles that contribute to poor posture and shoulder blade pain.

  • Place both arms on both sides of the door frame. Make sure that each arm is at approximately 90°.
  • Put one of your legs forward as if you’re entering through the door to apply pressure to your upper back muscles and thoracic spine.
  • Avoid arching your lower back or sticking your head forward to maintain good posture.
  • Hold the position for about 30 seconds. Repeat the exercise 3 times.

7) Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder rolls are one of the easiest stretches for the upper back and shoulder blades because you can do it anytime, anywhere, and in any position. Although it’s best to do this stretch standing up, you can also do this exercise while on your seat during breaks.

  • Keep both arms down at your sides.
  • Simultaneously roll both shoulders backward in a circular motion for about 5 rotations.
  • Repeat the process but in forwarding rotations instead.
  • Do the entire shoulder roll routine about 2 to 3 more times.

8) Neck Release

The levator scapulae muscle that runs from the neck up to the shoulder blades can easily get tight, resulting in shoulder and neck pain. This neck release exercise helps relieve the tension buildup in that area.

  • Sit upright in a chair then put your right arm on the back of your head.
  • Turn your head right and bring it down until there’s a pull or stretch. Use your hand to intensify the stretch as needed.
  • Hold the position for about 20 to 30 seconds before switching sides.

9) Scapular Retraction

The scapular retraction exercise is usually performed with resistance bands to strengthen the muscles in your back and between the shoulder blades, allowing you to maintain a proper posture.

  • Start by standing upright with good posture.
  • Stretch your arms in front and keep the elbows straight while holding the resistance band using both hands.
  • Slowly move both arms apart and toward the back of your body. There should be a squeezing sensation on the muscles between your shoulders.
  • Stretch your arms out as far as it’s comfortable for you without additional strain on your neck or arms.
  • Repeat the move in 2 sets of 10 until you can comfortably add another set.

What to Do When Stretching Isn’t Enough

Aside from stretching, there are many other ways to relieve upper back and shoulder pain. Resting your back might be a good solution because most of the time, all the tight muscles need is a break. Heat or cold compress might also do the trick, but always make sure to use a layer of cloth to protect the skin from extreme temperatures.

Another common solution is taking over-the-counter painkillers like naproxen or ibuprofen to reduce muscle or joint inflammation. But if none of these methods seem to work, then you might need to see a physical therapist or pain specialist. They can determine the cause of your pain and find the right treatment for you.

Consult with Gramercy Pain Center for Your Upper Back Pain

Depending on its cause, upper back and shoulder pain can easily worsen and prevent you from accomplishing simple tasks. At Gramercy Pain Center, we help patients manage their pain issues using integrated pain management approaches. 

Our team is composed of pain experts who provide all the care and treatment you need for a pain-free life. Call us today to book a consultation for your upper back pain in between shoulder blades and more.

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