Middle back pain can keep us from functioning during the day. We can’t turn to check for oncoming traffic or easily bend over to lift objects. If you find your middle back aching most days, then it is time to incorporate stretching into your daily routine. Taking 10 – 15 minutes to stretch every day can make a huge difference in how our backs feel. Here are the nine best stretches to eliminate middle back pain in wiser adults.
Related: What Causes Middle Back Pain
1. Sideline Thoracic Rotational Stretch
We’ll need a mat for this stretch or we can use our bed! We may also need a pillow to support the head. Lay on your right side and bend your knees at a 45-degree angle. If you need to adjust the angle to get comfortable, that is okay. Just make sure your spine is straight. Your arms should be outstretched in front of you, with your left arm on top of your right arm. Now, push your right arm forward and then lift it straight up and rotate it behind you. You should be making a big arc in the air. Try not to rotate your hips, so you may only be able to lift your arm a little way behind you. Watch your left arm as it lifts and lowers to help stretch out neck as well. Do this 5 – 10 sides and repeat on the other side.
2. Childs Pose
This is a great relaxing stretch that helps our entire back feel better. Begin on your hands and knees on the floor. Your knees should be wider than hip-width, but don’t try to stretch them too far. Bend your knees and push your hips back. If you can turn your toes inward, then do so. Continue to stretch back as low as you can until your hamstrings are resting on or between your calves. Now, straighten your arms and let them relax in front of you. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds. Keep your neck and shoulder relaxed. If your forehead is touching the floor, then you can gently rock your head side to side to stretch your neck more.
3. Lat Side Stretch
We can do this stretch sitting or standing. If you choose to sit, make sure you have room to bend sideways. Begin with your back straight and tall. Reach your left arm above your head and. Gently bend to the right. You should feel a stretch all down the left side of your back. Keep your back straight and do not lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. Change hands and bend to the left for 30 seconds.
4. Cat-Cow Stretch
This is a classic yoga pose that we can do before and after workouts to loosen up the middle back. Begin on your hands and knees with hands stacked under your shoulders and your knees at least fist-width apart. Inhale and arch your back so that your hips are reaching for the ceiling and your chest is pressing towards the floor. Lift your head up while keeping your neck relaxed. This is your cow. You can hold this stretch for a breath or two before moving into the cat stretch. Inhale and round your back so that it is arched toward the ceiling and your hips are down. You should be forming a C with your spine. Look down and make sure your shoulder blades are pushed away from your spine. Hold for one or two breaths and go back to the cow position. Alternate between these two positions 10 times.
5. Sphinx Pose
We can do this pose laying on the ground, a couch, or a bed. Begin by lying on your stomach. Place your forearms on the ground by your chest and gently lift your chest up. Make sure you draw your shoulder blades back and down and focus on keeping your spine long. Lift as high as you comfortably can before lowering yourself back to the ground. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at a time.
6. Thread the Needle
This stretch will loosen up the sides of our body and the latissimus dorsi, the large muscles of the upper-middle back. Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips and hands directly under the shoulders. Slowly walk your hands forward until they are no longer under your shoulders. Now, take your right arm and pass it through the space between your left arm and your body – just like threading a needle. Keep your arms straight the entire time. Rotate your chest and allow your right hand to lay on the floor, with the palm facing up. Lower your right shoulder as low as possible and place the right side of your head on the floor. Keep your gaze up – past your left armpit and towards the ceiling. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds before untwisting. Carefully push up with your right arm to return to the starting position. Repeat with the left arm threading below your right arm. If this too uncomfortable, you can try a version of this while in child’s pose. Instead of keeping your arms straight ahead of you, you can pass your arm under your body and twist your upper body to stretch your back.
7. Spinal Twist
This is one stretch can be performed on a chair, but you can also do it on the floor as shown. Sit sideways on a chair if using, or in a cross-legged position on the floor. Begin by rotating your upper body towards the right and reaching behind you with both hands. Use your hands to help you get deeper into the stretch, but do not turn so much that you feel pain. Make sure that you are only moving your upper body. Your legs and feet should not move. Hold for 10 – 20 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Caution: while this is a great stretch for back release, do not do NOT do it if you have bulging disks in your back or an undiagnosed spinal condition that might be bulging disks.
8. Passive Backbend
We can do this stretch with a foam roller, a rolled-up towel or yoga mat, or even a pool noodle! Begin by lying on your back on the floor. Position your rolled-up object beneath your shoulder blades. It should be closer to the middle of your back so that your shoulders can touch the ground above the roll. If this hurts your head or neck, use a pillow or yoga block to support it. Stretch your arms away from your body and let them rest on the floor. Hold this position for 60 seconds.
9. Chest Opener
This stretch is best performed on a foam roller, but you can use a rolled-up beach towel. Begin by placing your foam roller vertically on the floor. Sit on the bottom of the roller and lay down on it, so that the roller is directly underneath your spine. Your knees will be bent with your feet on the floor, and your head and neck should be fully supported on the roller. Instead of rolling, extend your arms out to the side and bend your elbows. You should feel your chest muscles stretch. Hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds. To go deeper into this stretch, squeeze your shoulder blades together! If you feel any intense pain, lower your elbows below your chest to relieve pressure.