How to Relieve Upper Back Pain (Including 7 Essential Stretches)
Need to learn how to relieve upper back pain?
You’ve come to the right place!
However big your back pain problem may be, know this:
You can feel better. I’m here to give you excellent tools for pain relief, good posture…
I’ll tell you the most common causes of back pain, and how you can avoid them.
I’ll show you a variety of exercises and strategies that can give you relief right now.
But first, know this:
You’re Not Alone. Did You Know...
Back pain is the largest known cause of disability.
In fact, between 49% and 70% of adults will experience acute or chronic back pain in their lifetime. At any moment, 12-30% of adults will be in the throes of back pain.
On average, back pain causes Americans to miss over 264 million work days each year.
To make matters worse:
If you suffer from upper back pain, you may have found it hard to get real answers about treatment.
Since upper back pain is less common than low back pain, there is far less research on upper back pain.
But that’s where I come in.
This guide, while intended to be informational and helpful, is not actual medical advice. If you are looking for medical advice, please consult a doctor. More specifically, if you are experiencing acute pain or it is painful to breathe, see a doctor right away.
So, it’s time to ask:
What Type Of Back Pain Do You Have?
Why do you need to identify the cause of your back pain?
Similar to gardening where you can’t remove a weed without first removing its roots, you can’t actually treat back pain without knowing what’s causing it.
What’s Causing Your Upper Back Pain
Most upper back pain is caused by a person’s lifestyle.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
“Sitting in front of your computer is ruining your posture!”
Posture is the number 1 cause of upper back pain. Are you seated for long periods of time and working at a computer each day?
It’s likely that you don’t need to see a doctor, but performing a few stretches and exercises can relieve your pain.
Don’t worry! I’ll break down some terrific posture-improving strategies in Chapter 4.
Are you constantly lifting weights in the gym or performing back-breaking work on a construction (or similar) site?
You can cause extreme stress to our upper back if you lift weights with improper form, or if you twist when lifting heavy objects.
Additionally, if you carry a heavy backpack or purse for long periods of time, you can cause injury or long-term pain.
It’s possible you can still self-treat by making sure that your body receives proper rest and stretching daily.
However, if the back pain is acute and does not allow you to function in an everyday capacity, you should probably see a doctor.
Less Common Causes could include:
Compression Fractures in the Spine
How To Relieve Upper Back Pain With Simple Stretches
It’s time to teach you how to relieve upper back pain.
The best solution?
Regular exercise and stretches - that you can do anytime, anywhere.
Always consult with your back pain specialist, like a Chiropractic Physician, before engaging in any exercise regimen.
Incorporate these strength exercises stretches into your day to fight your upper back pain:
If you sit hunched over all day in front of a computer, you need a stretch that can reverse the damage.
You can perform a pectoralis stretch at an open doorway or at a corner.
Doorway: Place your hands at chest height on either side of the doorway and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest.
Hold 15-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times.
Corner: Place one hand at chest height on one side of the corner and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest.
Hold 15-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. Return to the starting position. Switch to your other arm on the opposite side of the corner. Repeat.
Pro-Tip: A pectoralis stretch, in Yoga, is also considered to be one of the heart opening exercises. This means that it’s a great stretch to do first thing in the morning in order to open yourself up to the possibilities of the day!
Healthline Media has a great breakdown of this stretch:
If you’re using a foam roller, position it under your thoracic spine. Allow your head and butt to fall on either side. Extend your arms above your head to deepen the stretch.
If you’re using a chair, sit facing forward and allow your upper body to fall over the back of the chair. Extend your arms above your head for a deeper stretch.
Hold either position for 10 seconds and release. Repeat 3 times.
This one is similar to the thoracic extension. For this exercise, you are mirroring the thoracic extension by sitting on the floor with your feet on the ground and your knees facing up.
Wrap your arms around your legs and curl forward (creating space in between your chest and legs).
This will stretch your thoracic region, aka the upper part of your spine.
Working the same muscle area as the thoracic extension is a scapular squeeze.
In order to perform a scapular squeeze, simply sit or stand up straight with your arms to your side.
Squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other and hold for 5-10 seconds. You can do this 8-10 times.
This is a great exercise to do at work while you’re waiting for lunch to heat up in the microwave, for example.
This exercise is a close companion to the scapular squeeze.
You’ll need to be lying face down on the ground.
Extend your arms into a T position with your palms facing up.
Lift your arms a few inches off the ground and hold (for extra burn, you can pulse for a count of 12).
This exercise is great for strengthening your upper back and improving your overall posture over time.
This exercise is also known as a Child’s Pose in Yoga practice.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands in front of your knees.
Slowly lower your buttocks towards your feet until you feel a mild to moderate stretch along your mid and lower back.
Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds, then repeat 3-5 times.
Child’s Pose with Rotation
Another great exercise for rotation is a child’s pose with a rotation. For this exercise, begin in child’s pose.
If you’re unfamiliar with child’s pose, begin sitting on the ground on your knees. Spread your knees out just past hip width while keeping your big toes together under your pelvic area.
Crawl or walk your hands forward until you are lying face down on the ground with your arms all the way in front of you.
From child’s pose, take one arm and slide it under the other arm, palm facing up. Take a deep breath, release, and switch sides.
Do this exercise around 5 or 6 times on each side.
Pro-Tip: Child’s pose can be hard for people who don’t do much stretching. It might be difficult for you the first few times, but don’t give up! The more you do - it the easier it will get!
Over-the-Counter and Massage Therapy
The above exercises should help you to overcome back pain in the long run by strengthening the muscles in your upper back and improving your posture over time. However, if your upper back is bothering you today, you likely want a bit more of a quick fix. So, what can you do today to help find some reprieve from your upper back pain?
Over the counter pain relievers are great for immediate relief. Additionally, muscle creams and rubs can sometimes help as well.
Try rubbing on a dime-size portion of Tiger Balm or IcyHot to relieve intense muscle pain in your neck and upper back.
Always consult your medical physician regarding any medication before use.
Get a Massage
Massages may seem like an extraneous expense. After all, most people probably don’t feel that they have the time or budget to have a frequent spa day.
However, receiving a massage (once a month, or even every 2-3 months) can help release some of the lactic acid that can build up over time in the muscles surrounding your spine.
This means that getting a massage can have a direct impact on alleviating some of that upper back pain. Not to mention, massages are great stress relievers!
When Should You See a Doctor or a Chiropractor?
You might be curious if you should see your general practitioner or if you should see a specialist (i.e., a chiropractor).
First, it’s important to understand what the difference is.
General Practitioner: A licensed physician who does not specialize in a specific area of medicine, and may assess and treat many injuries, illnesses, and conditions.
Chiropractor: “A practitioner of the system of complementary medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misalignments of the joints.”
So, based off of the definitions, you will most likely benefit from seeing a chiropractor. If you’ve never been to a chiropractor before, it might be a good idea to visit your general practitioner first in order to receive a recommendation for a good chiropractor based on the symptoms you describe to them.
How To Relieve Upper Back Pain: What Might a Doctor Recommend?
It is hard to say exactly what a doctor might recommend since their recommendations will be made on a case by case basis.
However, most doctors will likely recommend that you engage in some back exercising and stretching (especially if your back pain is due to your lifestyle). Other doctors might recommend monthly massages or chiropractic visits.
Again, it will vary depending on the severity and cause of your upper back pain.
If you’re in the North Phoenix area, be sure to reach out to Dr. Wiegand (he was the guy with the beard in the videos before).
Dr Wiegand will help you in managing your care from start to healed. That’s because he’s the only doctor in our office.
So when you book an appointment, it’s always with him!
Dr. Wiegand will make sure you get personal care and attention so you can live your life relieved of your upper back pain.