5 Stretches and 5 Exercises for Instant Upper Back Pain Relief
Chronic back pain is the main reason why so many people often do not live their life to the fullest. It can be difficult to remain physically fit and active when you are in constant pain all the time.
Upper back pain caused by muscle spasm, muscle strains, or herniated disks can make even the simplest tasks unbearable.
Is there anything simple that can be done for upper back pain?
Fortunately, there are back stretches for upper back pain that can help eliminate this discomfort and allow you to reach your goals.
These useful stretches can help the muscles in your back that support the spine remain strong and flexible. Pair these back muscle stretches with other back exercises for upper back pain and you will have an excellent natural solution for your back issues that doesn’t require taking prescription pain killers or enduring risky surgical procedures.
Table of Contents
- Upper Back Pain Causes
- Upper Back Pain Risk Factors
- Upper Back Pain Symptoms
- Upper Back Pain Prevention Tips
- 5 Best Back Pain Stretches
- 5 Best Upper Back Pain Exercises
What are the Top Upper Back Pain Causes?
There are several causes for upper back pain. A few of the most common are compression fracture, scoliosis, arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia.
What is a Compression Fracture?
A compression fracture can occur any time one or more bones in the spine become weak or start to crumble. These fractures are often caused by the loss of bone mass, also known as osteoporosis, or be caused by lifting a heavy object, a fall, or even a cough.
The symptoms of a compression fracture include back pain, loss of height and a hunched-forward posture.
Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve. This shows up in individuals typically during puberty and most cases are considered very mild, however there are some that are very severe and disabling.
Some individuals who have scoliosis may develop a deformity of the spine that becomes worse as they grow from a child to an adult. The severe cases of scoliosis can cause back pain.
Other symptoms of scoliosis include extreme muscle deformities, an uneven waist or other physical deformities.
Using a back brace or taking part in physical therapy are two useful and natural forms of treatment.
How does Arthritis develop?
Arthritis, or joint inflammation can cause pain in multiple joints throughout the body.
Back pain associated with arthritis is often due to general wear and tear, but this joint inflammation can also be caused by infections, or other underlying health concerns.
The symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, reduced range of motion and body stiffness. Arthritis can cause pain in the back that radiates to the buttocks or the hip area.
What about Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease. It is a form of arthritis that occurs any time the tissue located at the ends of the bones wears down.
This is a very common condition in the United States. Although it may not be considered a common type of back pain, since it affects different areas of the body this condition is known for causes back pain and neck pain.
Can you tell me more about Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is another condition that causes muscle pain and tenderness. More than 3 million cases of fibromyalgia are reported every year.
Symptoms include fatigue, memory loss, lack of sleep and altered mood. The pain and tenderness that occurs throughout the body, including in the back, is another very common symptom.
Upper Back Pain Risk Factors
While there are some causes of back pain that are preventable, there are also some risk factors that increase your chances of enduing back pain. These issues, such as the following, may not always be preventable.
One of the risk factors of upper back pain that can’t be prevented is aging.
Over time, the consistent wear and tear to our spine can result in several conditions such as spinal stenosis or disc degeneration. This leads to both neck and back pain.
Individuals who are over the age of 30 or 40 are at a higher risk of developing upper back pain than those who are younger.
Some evidence has proven that common disorders of the spine have genetic components.
Degenerative disc disease is one condition that has an inherited component and therefore could be caused by genetics.
Jobs that require continuous movement such as bending, or lifting come with a high risk of back injuries. This is also common with occupations that require you to sit or stand for long periods without the right amount of back support.
Any time you sit or stand with poor posture for a long period, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of developing upper back pain. Whether you are slouching at your computer keyboard or driving for log miles hunched over your steering wheel, you will put a strain on your back and spine. Lifting heavy objects improperly on a routine basis can also lead to poor posture and back pain.
Upper Back Pain Symptoms
The symptoms of upper back pain may vary depending on the exact cause of your pain. But the most common symptoms for upper and middle back pain are the following.
- A dull, sharp or burning pain in your back
- Muscle tightness and stiffness
Other not-as-common symptoms of upper back pain include
- Weakness in your arms or legs
- Numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, belly or chest
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Upper back pain is typically diagnosed by a medical doctor after they ask questions about your past health, your symptoms, your current occupation and physical activities. They will then perform a physical exam and if needed, order an imaging test such as an X-Ray or MRI. These tests can help your doctor find out if there is a broken bone or a disc issue that is causing your back pain. Additional tests may also be needed to fully determine the cause of the pain.
Mild to moderate upper back pain can be treated using over-the-counter medication, heat or ice, exercise and manual therapy such as spinal manipulation or massage.
Upper Back Pain Prevention Tips
While some causes of back pain cannot be prevented, there are a few things you can practice to help decrease your pain level.
- Learn and practice good posture when you are sitting, standing or moving
- Exercise regularly. Take part in cardio workouts and do exercises that will get your heart rate elevated. Strength training exercises are also a great choice.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Learn to lift objects properly
- Eat well and ensure that you are getting all the vital nutrients you need
- Take care of your body while at work
The 5 Best Back Pain Stretches
Upper back pain stretches can help to eliminate consistent back pain as they relax tight muscles and improve circulation throughout the body, which strengthens the spine. Stretches like those mentioned below can help you to strengthen your back, so that you decrease your chances of experiencing back pain in the future. Here are five of the best stretches for upper back pain that you can practice at home to help relieve your mild to moderate back pain.
1. Child Pose
This popular yoga pose can be used to help relax the muscles in the back torso as well as the hips, thighs, and ankles.
- Start on your hands and knees and spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching. Rest your buttocks on your heels.
- Sit up straight and lengthen your spine through the crown of your head.
- While exhaling, bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. This will cause your heart and chest to rest either between or on top of your thighs. Allow your forehead to lower to the floor.
- Keep your arms long and extended with palms facing, press back with your hands to keep your buttocks in contact with your heels. Lengthen your hips to your armpits and extend further through your fingertips.
- Allow your upper back to broaden, soften and relax your lower back. All the tension in your shoulders, arms and neck to drift away.
- Keep your gaze inward, hold for up to a minute and release the pose. Use your hands to gently walk your torso upright to sit on your heels.
2. Cat-Cow Back Stretch
The Cat-Cow Back Stretch helps with spinal flexibility and abdominal strength.
- Start out on all fours and align your wrists underneath your shoulders. Your knees should be aligned under your hips.
- Imagine the spine as a straight line, connecting the shoulders to he hips. Visualize the line extending forward through the crown of your head then backward through the tailbone. This is known as the position of the neutral spine.
- Keep the neck long by looking down then out.
- Curl your toes under.
- Tilt your pelvis back so that your tail sticks up. Make sure that your neck is the last thing to move.
- Allow your belly to drop down but keep your abdominal muscles hugging your spine.
- Bright your gaze up toward the ceiling without cranking your neck.
- Release the tops of your feet to the floor.
- Tip your pelvis forward, tucking in your tailbone. Allow the action to move your spine.
- Draw your navel toward your spine
- Drop your head.
- Take your gaze to your navel. Repeat.
3. Kneeling Thoracic Extension
This stretch focuses on relieving muscle tension throughout your body while easing and restoring strength to your thoracic spine.
- Start with knees on the ground hip width apart. Lean your elbows on a chair in front of you, shoulder width apart. Reach your elbows a few inches in front of your shoulder line. Lift hands to eye level.
- Keep your hands and elbows in place and lean your butt back toward your heels as far as you can.
- Actively force your chest down toward the ground to achieve the thoracic extension.
- Hold this position for five seconds. Come back up to the starting position and repeat for five sets.
4. Thoracic Spine Extension
The Thoracic Spine Extension helps you to maintain thoracic mobility and avoid poor posture.
- Place a foam roller under your upper back/thoracic spine.
- With your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, place your hands behind your head and pull your elbows as close together as you can.
- Allow your head to fall on the floor and attempt to wrap yourself around the foam roller. Then extend the thoracic spine over the roller
- Roll slowly, up and down the vertebrae. Pause on any painful areas. Do not roll the neck or the lower back, focus just on your thoracic spine.
5. Butterfly Wings
This stretch works well with neck rolls and helps strengthen the rhomboid and pectoral muscles.
- Sit up straight and touch your fingertips to your shoulders with elbows pointed to the side.
- Keep your fingers in place, exhale and slowly pull your elbows together in front of you until they touch.
- Breathe in and allow your arms to move back to their original position.
5 Best Exercises to Get Rid of Upper Back Pain
Exercising daily is a great way to help minimize the amount of upper back pain you experience. Here are a few useful exercises for back pain that can help you enjoy a pain-free life once again.
Using a Rowing Machine, you can easily stretch the muscles in your upper back to help relieve pain and tension. Pulling your arms and shoulders back each time you draw the rower’s handle into your midsection causes you to use several muscles around your upper back and shoulders. The upper rhomboids and trapezius which are located between your shoulder blades, work to pull your shoulders back while the latissimus dorsi, which can be found beneath your armpits, pulls your upper arms back and into extension.
2. Thread The Needle
The thread the needle exercise can help you build up core strength as well as stability and rotation.
While in side plank position, have your elbow anchored under your shoulder with your feet, hips and shoulders stacked. Top arm should be high to start. Roll the top arm toward the body, and along the floor behind you, begin creating a large twist at the rib cage and shoulders. Return to the start position and repeat this exercise ten times then switch sides for two total sets.
3. Mid-Trap Exercise
The Mid-Trap Exercise offers a fast and simple way to relieve upper back pain.
- Lie on your stomach on a firm surface and place a folded pillow under your chest.
- Place your arms out straight to your sides with your elbows straight and thumbs toward the ceiling.
- Slowly raise your arms toward the ceiling while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Lower slowly. Do three sets of fifteen.
4. Quadruped Arm and Leg Raise
This exercise can help to strengthen you arm and leg muscles while eliminating back pain.
- Get down on your hands and knees.
- Pull in your belly button and tighten your abdominal muscles to stiffen the spine.
- Keep your abdominals tight and raise one arm and the opposite leg away from you.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Lower your arm and leg slowly and change sides.
- Do this for 10 times each on each side.
5. Scapular Squeeze
This exercise is ideal for eliminating pain that occurs between your shoulder blades.
- While sitting or standing with your arms by your side, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat for two sets of 15.
Upper back pain can be caused by many different factors. Whether your back pain is caused by an underlying health condition or due to overworking your muscles throughout the years, there are several stretches and exercises that can help you eliminate the pain. You can attempt these helpful natural remedies for pain on your own. If you have concerns, you can always ask your doctor or physical therapist for advice or assistance. Practice these stretches and exercises for upper back pain daily to help relieve your back discomfort.