Ten Best Stretches for Upper Back Pain

Laura Burkhart

November 23, 2019

Joints & Back Health

Ten Best Stretches for Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain can really affect our mood, activities, and quality of life. Unfortunately, we are more prone to upper back pain as we age due to stress, modern life, and general wear and tear on the body. The good news is that we can counteract this pain by living a healthy life that involves regular exercise and stretching. Most of us may not take much time to stretch during the day, but it’s an excellent way to relax and help relieve pain. In some cases, we can even stretch while sitting in a chair! Here are the ten best stretches for upper back pain in wiser adults.

1. Shoulder Rolls

This is an easy stretch that one can do anywhere. It helps relieve tension in our shoulders and realigns the spine. Begin sitting or standing upright and roll the shoulders up, back, and down. Try to do this in one fluid motion. Do this 5 – 10 times and then reverse the movement, so that the shoulders go forward, down, and back. Repeat again for 5 – 10 times.

2. Eagle Stretch

This exercise stretches the area between our shoulder blades. It can be done on a chair or standing. We recommend using a sturdy chair with no arms, like a kitchen chair. Sit at the edge of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Stretch both your arms directly in front of you at shoulder height. Now, take your right elbow and place it on top of your left elbow and intertwine the forearms. Try to grasp your right hand with your left. Press your elbows and forearms away from you to separate the shoulder blades. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat with the left arm on top of the right.

Related: Shoulder and Neck Chair Yoga That You Can Do Anywhere, Anytime

3. Tricep Stretch

Stretching our triceps might not seem like an upper back stretch, but it actually helps stretch the shoulders! Sit on the edge of a chair, like in the eagle stretch. Reach the right arm up and bend the elbow, placing your right hand on the top of your back. Now, take your left hand and place it on top of your right elbow. Press your left hand into your right elbow to stretch your triceps and shoulders. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds and then repeat on the left side.

4. Neck Release

This stretch is designed to stretch our neck, so practice caution. If you have a bulging disc, then do not try this one! Begin by sitting on your chair and grasp the seat with your right hand. Lift your left arm and bend your elbow until your left hand is touching your right ear. Gently tilt your head towards your left shoulder. Do not push your head and slowly extend your neck. You can bend your body towards the left to get a deeper stretch if that feels comfortable. Hold for 30 seconds and then stretch the other side.

Related: The 9 Best Stretches For Middle Back Pain

5. Shoulder Opener

For this exercise, we recommend finding a towel, scarf, or belt to help perform this stretch. Begin by either sitting or standing with your feet wide. Stretch your arms behind you, with your hands meeting at the bottom of your lower back. Interlace your fingers together or grasp your towel. Bend forward at your hips and let your arms raise up towards the sky. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds before slowly raising your upper body back up.

6. Cross-Body Arm Stretch

This is another shoulder stretch that will relieve tension in our arms, neck, and shoulders. You can sit or stand for this stretch. Cross your right arm in front of your chest. Use your left hand to hold it closer to your body. If you feel comfortable, you can turn your head towards your right shoulder to help stretch your neck. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds before switching sides.

7. Levator Scapulae Stretch

This stretch targets our Levator scapulae muscles, which connect your neck to your shoulders. Begin by sitting in your chair while grasping the bottom of it with your right hand. Gently tilt your chin towards your chest and then rotate it so that it is closer to your left shoulder. If you could use more of a stretch, use your left arm to very gently push your head down so that you are looking towards your left armpit. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides.

8. Cow Face Pose

This is a modified yoga pose that stretches our shoulders, triceps, and chest. We recommend using a towel, scarf, or belt for this exercise. Begin by sitting up straight in your chair. Reach your right arm up and bend your elbow so that your right hand is on your upper back. Next, bend your left arm behind you so that your left hand is touching your shoulder blades. Work your hands closer to each other until you can grasp your fingertips. If this is too difficult, hold the towel in your right hand and grasp it with your left. Hold for 20 seconds and then reverse your arms.

9. Pec Stretch

This stretch must be performed standing but it is a wonderful stretch for both our shoulders and our upper back! Turn so that your right side is perpendicular to the wall. Bend your elbow at 90 degrees and place your forearm on the wall. You may want to begin with your left foot staggered in front of your right for extra stability. Slowly lean your body forward so that you can feel the stretch in your shoulders. You do not need to move very far! Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat on the left side.

10. Butterfly

This is a gentle stretch that will help our shoulders and back. We can sit or stand to begin. Straighten your back and then place your palms on the opposite shoulders. Keep your arms parallel to the ground. Slowly bring your elbows together so you can feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds and then switch which hand is on top.

If you liked this article, download Wysefit app and try our Chair Yoga with Laura Burkhart and Back Health and Core Stability series with Clarice Cummins, P.T.

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