5 stretches for upper back pain

5 stretches for upper back pain

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your upper back. On a good day, you are only the best little conscious The range of motions, movements, and non-movements you perform in your upper back for required roles—such as steering your car, sitting at your desk, or holding your phone—looks into the endless confusing depths of it.

But on a bad day, the slightest pain or discomfort can force the terrible centrality of your upper back into forced, even depressed, focus. How previously innocuous actions like putting on your coat or opening the door become painful reminders simple Everything was behind your back before you decided to betray yourself.

so Good stretch for you And your upper back pain? Fortunately, when your upper back feels low, there are some quick, easy, and low-stress stretches to relieve pain, soothe your sore muscles, and speed your journey to recovery.

How stretching can benefit your upper back

The first thing you should know about your upper back is that it is a marvel of natural engineering. It is a complex and interconnected network of bones, muscles, discs, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Without them, you’d be unable to shrug, raise a toast, or even hold your head (to say nothing at all murder Arm day three times a week, like you always do).

For clarity, we can define “upper back” as the area of ​​the back of the body that starts from the neck and ends at the loins (or the part of the back of your hips just below your ribs). This region includes your neck, shoulders, and arms, in addition to the upper quadrant of your back, scientifically known as the thoracic spine.1

But not under the skin, dozens of muscles flex and relax, busy contracting and stretching, over and over again. infinitum-All serve posture, mobility, and major movements like pulling.

The upper back is home to several essential muscles, including:2

  • Four sets of muscles activate you when you want to move your head.
  • The seven muscle pairs you use to move your shoulder.
  • Five muscle pairs that control your arm.

The upper back is home to some fugitives and dual citizens in the middle and lower back, plus one or two core muscles that contribute to the movement of your spine. But when it comes to knowing how to stretch your upper back for pain relief, the four most important muscles are:3

  • Trapezius – You and your entire body have “trap” muscles to thank for your ability to move. If you have good posture or enjoy doing The Wave at baseball games, you owe more.
  • broad back – Also known by its nickname, “lats,” you rely on this muscle every time you raise or rotate your arms or shoulders.
  • Levator scapula – Every time you perform an action that lifts your shoulder blades you are enlisting the help of this muscle.
  • rhomboid – Rhomboid, major and minor, like dynamic pair of upper back muscles. Their mission? To pull the scapula or shoulder blade towards the spine.

In other words, the literal shoulders of your upper back have all the important work to do. So whether you’re hurting from an injury, suffering from a case of post-workout DOMS, or sore from poor posture, here are five stretches for upper back pain relief that you can try right away.

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#1 Work on your Rhomboids

If your upper back pain shifts to the middle of your upper back region, it may be the result of muscle tension and stiffness between your shoulder blades. Fortunately, this super simple stretch targets middle back pain and may be able to take the stiffness out of that built-up tension.4

Here’s how to properly stretch your shoulder blades:

  • Step 1 – Keeping your arms in front of you at chest level, connect your elbows together, starting from right to left.
  • Step 2 – Next, bring your left hand over your right arm so that they are connected to each other and apply pressure.
  • Step 3 – Hold or apply progressively greater amounts of pressure for 20-30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.

#2 Loosen your latissimus dorsi

If you are someone who is active with exercise or athletics, it is a good idea to choose a comfortable stretch for upper back pain that focuses on your lats.


Because not only is the latissimus dorsi the largest muscle in your back, it’s also one that can be regularly stressed by a variety of physical activities, from playing tennis to shoveling snow.5

That said, a few repetitions of the classic side stretch can help loosen up your lats and ease your pain.

Here’s how to perform latissimus dorsi side stretches:

  • Stand with your hands above your head.
  • Using your right hand, grab your left hand at the wrist.
  • Slowly pull your left arm to the right side of your body for 20-30 seconds.
  • Switch sides, repeat two or three times.

#3 Target your upper trapezius

A loss of motion in your arms, tenderness in your shoulders, and stiffness in your neck can all signal a sore trapezius.6 This can be caused by things like overexerting yourself at the gym, pinched nerves or poor posture. But don’t worry: This upper back stretch targets your tired traps directly—and can relieve pain.

You can target your trapezius while standing or sitting and bring one hand over your head to grasp the opposite side. Place your free arm behind you and slowly pull your neck down toward the shoulder of the arm you are pulling with. If you want a more intense stretch, feel free to apply more pressure.

After about 30 seconds, switch to the opposite side and repeat.

#4 Target your lower trapezius

The trapezius is one of those ingenious “don’t-fen-me-in” type muscles that refuses to be in just one part of your back. Instead, it extends from the bottom of your neck to a point in the very middle of your back For that reason, stretching for back pain that targets your upper back And Lower traps can help speed your healing.

To stretch your lower trapezius, stand with your arms above your head as if making a W salute. Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you slowly lower your elbows to stomach level.

Hold that position for two or three seconds, then slowly raise your arms back to your starting position – this time, you should aim to respect the letter “Y”, holding for another two or three seconds. Repeat the upper back stretch up to 10 times depending on the amount of pain you have.

#5 Release your levator scapulae

Any number of strenuous workouts can potentially strain the levator scapula. But if you have upper back pain, especially in the neck and shoulder blades, that doesn’t mean your exercise routine is to blame. The culprit could even be your smartphone.

In studies, levator scapula pain has been associated with sustained craniovertebral angle—the down-facing, bent-neck posture many of us assume whenever we’re engrossed in our cell phones.7 So it might be worth adding a good levator scapula stretch to your routine as well as rethinking your posture when you’re scrolling away.

Here’s a great way to stretch your levator scapulae:

  • While sitting, use your left hand to grip the bottom of your chair.
  • Slowly turn your head to the right while bringing your chin towards your chest.
  • With your right hand, carefully force your head down and to the left.
  • Hold for about 20 seconds.

When you’re done, be sure to repeat the stretch for the other side.

Bonus stretches for upper back pain

When you’re stretching for upper back pain, never underestimate the power of yoga. If you ask, “Is yoga good for you??” It’s important to know that a few standard yoga poses can open things up and cover up a sore upper back. Far-flung yogis recommend the following simple poses as time-tested answers to how to stretch your upper back:8

  • Balasana (Child’s Pose) for bending the spine and stretching the shoulder blades.
  • Marzariasana (Cat pose) to loosen tight muscle trigger points
  • Vitilasana (cow pose) to re-energize worn out muscles
  • Ustrasana (Camel Pose), a back-bend style pose to open the shoulders

New to yoga? Don’t worry. Yoga is one of the most incredible Fitness class Available at Chuze, each is led by our friendly and inspiring instructors. Signing up is as simple as searching for “Choose”. gym near meAnd join the fun.

Choose Fitness: For a different gym experience

A Choose Fitness, We know it doesn’t take much for upper back pain to meet your fitness goals. But not the sore, sore muscles always One reason to skip the gym—especially when your gym is Choze, not the friendliest, biggest gym around.

Enter any Chuze location and you’ll find state-of-the-art exercise machines, workout equipment, and the first-rate amenities you’d expect from the world’s fanciest gyms, like pools, hot tubs, and our exclusive iChuze app. Plus, our approachable, knowledgeable staff and supportive community of members of all fitness levels are here to make you feel like part of the family.

Chuze, we’re all rooting for you. Isn’t it time we met?

Reviewed by:

Ani is Vice President of Fitness at Chuz Fitness and oversees the Group Fitness and Team Training departments. He had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Annie lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and son and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.


  1. Cleveland Clinic. Upper back pain. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/22866-upper-back-pain
  2. good way Back muscles. https://www.goodpath.com/learn/muscles-back#
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Back muscles. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21632-back-muscles
  4. Back Intelligence. 7 Specific Upper Back Stretches for Back Pain Relief https://backintelligence.com/upper-back-stretches/
  5. Healthline. Wide back pain https://www.healthline.com/health/latissimus-dorsi-pain#causes
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Trapezius muscle. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21563-trapezius-muscle
  7. PubMed Central. Relationship between smartphone addiction, craniovertebral angle, scapular dyskinesis and selected demographic variables in physiotherapy graduates. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6695020/
  8. Yoga Journal. 7 Yoga Poses to Relieve Your Upper Back Pain https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/yoga-by-benefit/back-pain/yoga-for-upper-back-pain/

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