When you have tension in your shoulders/upper back.

Written on 01/01/2020
Jamie Gilliam

Many people talk about low back pain, but rarely do we discuss the common tight shoulders, traps and upper back.  There are a vareity of causes, but even simple stressors can cause tension in these areas. 

Upper Back-Pain Exercises and Stretches

Strengthen and stretch these areas to improve your posture and loosen tight, crunched-up muscles.

1. Strengthen your shoulder blades. 

The shoulder blades (aka scapulas) glide along your rib cage and rely on the surrounding muscles to do so smoothly and without pain. So if shoulder movements make your upper back sore, you may benefit from upper back-pain exercises that strengthen those muscles. While sitting, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for five to 10 seconds, and repeat two to three times per day. Easy peasy. 

2. Stretch your pecs.

If you've got a tight back, you probably also have a tight chest, she says. Stand in a corner with your arms against each wall and slightly above your head. Move close to the wall until you feel a slight stretch along your chest. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat three times. Make this—and all these upper back-pain exercises—a regular part of your workout routine. 

3. Strengthen your trapezius.

The trapezius extends from the base of your skull through your shoulders and into your middle back, so any weaknesses in it can result in wide-reaching pains. To strengthen it, try this upper back-pain exercise: lie on the floor on your stomach, and extend your arms straight out to your sides with your elbows straight and thumbs pointing up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to raise your arms off the floor. Pause at the top of the motion, then lower back down slowly. That's one rep. Complete three sets of 15 reps. 

4. Stretch your thoracic area.

The thoracic region of your spine sits at chest height and connects to your ribs—and it's rarely stretched. While sitting with your hands clasped behind your head, gently arch your upper back and look up toward the ceiling. Repeat 10 times, several times a day, says Dr. Manejias. It's easy to complete at the office, in bed, or between workouts.