A woman sitting at her desk at home, raising her arms above her head to stretch.

Back Pain? Time to Stretch it Out

Five Stretches for Upper Back Pain

The upper back covers the area from the bottom of your neck down to the bottom of your rib cage. This area is called the thoracic spine, which is made up of 12 vertebrae. Upper back pain can impact any part of the upper back. Most often, individuals describe this pain as a muscle knot, burning, or a pulling sensation.

If you’re experiencing upper back pain, keep reading! In this article, we cover why upper back pain happens, the symptoms associated with it, and stretches that can help you relieve your upper back pain once and for all.

Why Does Upper Back Pain Happen?

Upper back pain can happen due to various reasons. Commonly, bad posture plays a significant role. In a way, many of us decondition our muscles by sitting at our computers all day and hunching forward. This creates weak postural muscles and tight chest muscles. As a result, you may experience varying degrees of upper back pain.

However, poor posture isn’t the only contributing factor here.

Performing repetitive activities with the upper back or shoulder may also lead to upper back pain. For instance, a painter who repeatedly has to reach to get to certain spots may experience shoulder and upper back pain due to this.

Upper back pain may also arise from traumatic injuries, such as a fall or collision. The upper spine may also have a herniated disc, pinched nerve, or osteoarthritis, leading to pain. In severe cases, upper back pain may be caused by a spinal infection or lung cancer.

Common upper back pain symptoms include:

  • A sharp or burning sensation in the upper back
  • Upper back tightness or stiffness

Less and more severe symptoms may include:

  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Numbness or tingling across the chest, arms, or legs
  • A loss of bladder or bowel control

If you’re experiencing any of these more severe symptoms, seek out immediate medical attention. These can also be a sign of more serious health conditions.

Stretches to Relieve Your Upper Back Pain

Stretching can help ease muscular tension, improve range of motion, increase blood flow, and ultimately, reduce your pain. So, what stretches should you do for your upper back pain?

The Cat-Cow Stretch

The cat-cow stretch improves the range of motion of your thoracic spine. It’s very simple and involves moving the upper back between flexion and extension. This can get the blood flowing and help decrease tension or muscle spasms.

Begin on all-fours with a neutral spine. Gently curve your spine down, bringing your belly closer to the floor and bringing your gaze up. Pause, then gently curve your spine up, pull your stomach in, and bring your head in between your arms. Repeat for 10–15 repetitions. Ensure you go slow and pause at each end range.

The Chest Stretch

Upper back pain can quickly be attributed to tight chest muscles. This happens due to poor posture and weak upper back muscles. But a chest stretch can feel oh-so-good when it comes to upper back pain.

To perform this stretch, find a free corner in your home. Place your forearms and hands on the wall with your elbows bent at shoulder height. Gently and slowly lean in or step forward. You should feel a gentle stretch through your chest. When you do, hold this position for 20-30 seconds. You can repeat this stretch up to three times a day.

Child’s Pose

This is a great stretch for your shoulders, upper back, and lower back. It works by lengthening and stretching your entire spine.

Begin on all-fours for this one. Slowly bring your buttocks back to rest on your heels while keeping your arms outstretched in front of you. If possible, bring your forehead to rest on the ground. You should feel a nice stretch through your entire back. Hold here for 30 seconds.

Lying Spinal Stretch

This is another excellent stretch for your entire spine, and it adds a twisting movement. Begin by lying face-up on a comfortable surface. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground. Spread your arms straight out to each side. Gently allow your knees to fall to one side. Stay here for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Overhead Arm Reach

This stretch targets the sides of your upper back, including the lats. Stand or sit up tall. Bring your arms up high above your head. Touch them together and gently lean to one side, keeping your arms stretched upwards. If you want a little more, use one hand to pull the other hand down more. Hold here for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Stretch It Out and Say Goodbye to Upper Back Pain for Good!

If you’re prone to upper back pain, we recommend doing these stretches 2-3 times a week. Regular stretching can keep your body agile and flexible, preventing pain from occurring down the road.

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