Best Stretches For Upper Back Pain | IMPACT Physical Therapy

Best Stretches For Upper Back Pain

Man having back and shoulder pain

Upper back pain has always been the scourge of office and remote workers, but with the changing landscape of work, it’s becoming a problem for more of us than ever. You’re likely well aware that prolonged sitting often leads to back pain, but the good news is that there’s a lot you can do to address the root causes without taking medication—or switching jobs.

A physical therapist can provide helpful insight into your situation, and suggest the best stretches for your upper back pain and shoulder pain. You can also equip your workspace with equipment like standing desks and ergonomic office chairs

But before you take those actions, it’s a great idea to learn how to stretch for upper back pain on your own! These four stretches for upper back pain take just a few minutes to complete, and most can be done without leaving your seat. 

Neck Rolls

Even if you haven’t thought much about how to stretch for upper back pain, you probably remember these from gym class. Here’s how to perform a neck roll:

  1. Sit upright with your shoulders relaxed and your hands in your lap.
  2. Slowly tip your head to the right so that your right ear is directly above your right shoulder.
  3. Moving slowly, bring your chin down and allow it to drop toward your chest. Remember to keep your back straight.
  4. Gently roll your head to the left, and then raise your chin so that your left ear is above your left shoulder.
  5. Roll your head back to the right once again.
  6. Keeping your breaths evenly spaced and calm, repeat 5 to 10 times in each direction.

Butterfly Wings

For best results, be sure to pair multiple stretches for upper back pain together! Butterfly wings help back pain by strengthening your rhomboid and pectoral muscles. This is another exercise that you can easily do from an office chair:

  1. Sit up straight in your chair.
  2. Point your elbows out and touch your fingertips to your shoulders.
  3. Take a breath and exhale, slowly pulling your elbows together in front of you until they touch. Keep your fingertips in place as you do this.
  4. Breathe in and bring your elbows back to the starting position.

Shoulder Shrugs

Shoulder shrugs are one of the best stretches for upper back pain not so much because they stretch your muscles, but because they build strength in your trapezius muscles. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing your neck and upper back, and when they’re strong, it reduces strain on your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Here’s how they work:

  1. Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Stand up straight and let your arms hang at your sides.
  3. Roll your shoulders up as high as you can while taking a deep breath.
  4. Hold your breath and squeeze your shoulder muscles tight for about 2 seconds.
  5. Breathe out and let your arms drop back down. 
  6. Repeat 8 to 10 shrugs to complete a set.

If this feels too easy, add light dumbbells for a challenge!

Shoulder Rolls

As with shoulder shrugs, you’ll begin a shoulder roll by pulling your shoulders tight up to your ears. After this, bring them back down in a circular motion. Repeat this movement in both forward and backward directions, five times each.

Learn More About How to Stretch for Upper Back Pain

If you’d like expert guidance on your journey to a pain-free life, a licensed physical therapist can help you to reduce back pain through improved core strength and mobility, provide manual therapy, and suggest personalized strength-building exercises and stretches for your upper back pain. 

Find out how you can start the healing process today at IMPACT Physical Therapy! We’re easy to reach from downtown Chicago and the southwest suburbs, and you’ll also find us in Champaign Urbana.