Top 5 Ways to Stretch Upper Back to Get Pain Relief – Sports Medicine Weekly | Dr. Brian J. Cole
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Published on: 30-Jul-2021

Do you suffer from backaches and pains despite your best efforts? If you’re left wondering what else you can do to mitigate back pain, try to stretch your upper back. Many people complain of cramps or dull pain, and simple movements can help ease the burden. 


What Can Cause Back Pain? 

Multiple factors lead to back pain; even simple every day strains can result in constant discomfort. Here is a list of the most common reasons why your back may be hurting:

  • Arthritis
  • High heels
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lifting objects incorrectly
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 

Slouching and Exercise

A human body in motion is a healthy body. Each day you should strive for good posture and adequate exercise. By doing both things, you help relieve muscle tension as well as strengthen them. 

Obesity or being overweight in general can also negatively impact your back. This is especially the case if you carry more weight in your stomach, pulling the pelvis forward and out of alignment.  This, in turn, can affect the upper back since the lower back is thrown out of whack.

Proper Lifting 101

This common saying often goes unheeded as countless people injure their backs by lifting incorrectly. There are a few ways you can lift or carry wrong. The first reason is due to lifting with your back and not your legs.

Contrary to what people may think, the legs are much stronger than the human back. Therefore, use your legs to brace before lifting. Squat down, grip the box, keep your back straight, and stand upright. Those are the four simple steps to saving your back. 

Nicotine and Back Pain

Smokers and those who vape have a higher likelihood of back pain than non-smokers. Why? Nicotine, the addictive additive in vapes and cigarettes, is known to restrict blood flow in the disks that cushion spinal vertebrae, leading to their decay.

Thankfully, there is good news! Once users quit, their back pain starts to lessen. Unfortunately, they never truly feel total comfort. Nicotine users are advised to stop and adopt stretching into their daily routines to help alleviate their chronic discomfort. 

How to Stretch the Pain Away 

Stretching does positive things for your body’s health. One of the perks is its remarkable ability to quell back pain. While there are a plethora of upper back stretches, let’s focus on our five favorites. Not only are these easy, but some of them you can easily do at your desk. 

  • Cat-Cow Pose
  • Chair rotation
  • Thoracic extension
  • Shoulder roll
  • Neck flexion 

Cat-Cow Pose

For this stretch, yoga mats or carpeting are preferred rather than on hard floors. You’ll need to get on all fours with your knees positioned directly beneath your hips. While doing so, align your hands (fingers facing out) beneath your shoulders. 

Take a deep breath, tuck your pelvis, and arch your back like a cat. The key is to hold this position for a handful of seconds to loosen up taut muscles. After roughly five seconds, you’ll exhale slowly. While doing so, look towards the sky, let your back droop, and hold for the same duration as the last pose. This stretch works wonders on back pain, is one of our favorites. 

Chair Rotation

Sit sideways in your chair with either side perpendicular to the back of the chair. Rotate towards the backrest while simultaneously reaching for it with both arms. Hold this for five seconds. Once you release, do so on the other side as well. This stretch works for the upper, mid, and lower back. 

Thoracic Extension

Another chair stretch that’s easy to do in the office is the thoracic extension. Lean back and extend your arms over your head to allow your upper back to fall over the backrest of the chair. Do this three times, while each time holding the position for ten seconds.  

Shoulder rolls

These can be accomplished either by standing or sitting and rolling your shoulders in either a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation. For these, we suggest two or three reps of five rotations for best results. 

Neck Flexion 

Instead of rolling your shoulders, you roll your neck. The motion stretches out both your neck muscles and upper back. Take your head, cock it to the side, and roll it 360 degrees. Switch up the direction twice in your 3-4 rotations, and you’ll feel the pain subside. 

Now It’s Time to Give Your Upper Back Stretches A Try!

Now that you have the tools to alleviate your upper back discomfort, it’s time for you to try out these new pain-relieving positions for yourself. You can even teach your family and friends what you learned so they can experience less back pain too. 

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