Stretches & Exercises to Relieve Upper Back Pain

Last updated: August 17, 2023

Upper back pain is a prevalent issue that affects millions of people around the globe. Often resulting from poor posture, muscle strain, or injury, this discomfort can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life. Lucky for us, there are certain stretches and exercises that can ease this discomfort and enhance our range of motion.

In this blog, we delve into the common causes of upper back pain, practical prevention strategies, and effective exercises for pain relief.

What Causes Upper Back Pain?

Upper back pain primarily occurs due to three main reasons:

  1. Poor Posture: With the rise of desk jobs and technology use, slouching and hunching over screens has become a pervasive problem. This persistent poor posture places undue stress on the muscles and ligaments in the upper back, leading to discomfort and pain over time.
  2. Muscle Strain or Overuse: Repetitive motions or heavy lifting can strain the muscles and tendons in the upper back, causing inflammation and pain. This can be a common issue for athletes or individuals in physically demanding jobs.
  3. Injury or Trauma: Accidents, falls, or direct blows to the back can lead to injuries such as fractures, herniated discs, or even spinal damage, which can manifest as upper back pain.

Preventing Upper Back Pain

  1. Maintain Good Posture: Practice sitting and standing with a straight back. If you work at a desk, ensure your workstation is ergonomically set up to support good posture.
  2. Regular Exercise: Strengthening the muscles that support your spine helps in maintaining structural integrity and balance. Engage in regular physical activities like swimming, walking, or yoga.
  3. Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the pressure on your spine and back muscles.
  4. Quit Smoking: Smoking can impair blood flow, leading to oxygen and nutrient deprivation in spinal tissues, which can exacerbate back pain.

Stretches and Exercises for Upper Back Pain

Here’s how to relieve upper back pain through stretches and exercises. Before attempting any of these, please consult with a healthcare professional to ensure they are suitable for your specific circumstances. 

1. Cat-Cow Stretch:

This yoga pose helps improve flexibility and eases tension in the upper back and neck. Start on all fours and alternate between arching your back upward (cat pose) and dipping it downward (cow pose).

Cat Cow Pose illustration

2. Child’s Pose:

Another calming yoga pose, the child’s pose, stretches the muscles of the upper back. Kneel on a yoga mat, sit back on your heels, and reach your arms forward on the mat, lowering your forehead to the floor.

Child's Pose illustration

3. Thoracic Extension:

Using a foam roller, or even a rolled up towel this exercise helps to stretch out the thoracic spine and counteract the hunching posture. Lay on your back with the foam roller placed under your upper back and gently roll back and forth if on a foam roller or with a towel just lie back and relax.

Thoracic Extension illustration

4. Scapular Squeezes:

Scapular Squeezes: Standing or sitting with good posture, pull your shoulder blades back and down as if trying to squeeze a pencil between them. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat 10-15 times.

Scapular Squeezes illustration

Source: Mayo Clinic

The Role of Physiotherapy

In conjunction with at-home exercises and stretches, professional physiotherapy can play a critical role in managing and alleviating upper back pain. Physiotherapists can provide personalised exercise regimens, manual therapy, and education about body mechanics and posture.

At a2z Health Group, our experienced physiotherapists will assess your condition and craft a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Our clinics in Dandenong and Noble Park are equipped with the latest technology and our team is dedicated to helping you regain your strength, mobility, and comfort.


Take a positive step towards a pain-free life today

We invite you to book an appointment at a2z Health Group clinic for physiotherapy treatment. Let us support your journey towards a healthier, stronger back and a happier you! If you enjoyed this blog, we also have a guide to the best posture setup when working from home, as well as a list of top tips to avoid pain and stiffness when working at home.

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