According to research, nearly 1 in 4 people experience upper back pain each year. ¬†At some point most of us have felt pain between our shoulder blades or across the back of our shoulders.¬† Upper back pain can be coming from your spinal joints, discs, or muscles.¬† A rounded shoulder posture is a common contributor to upper back pain.¬† This article shows you 6 postural exercises for upper back pain.
A rounded shoulder posture is common in people who sit for prolonged periods.¬† This is especially the case for people who work on a laptop or tablet.¬† Holding your head down when you work exacerbates a rounded shoulder posture.¬† Also, many people with this posture have trouble holding their head up when they walk.¬† Exercise is most effective when combined with frequent postural changes throughout the day.¬† Move it or lose it!
Exercise is Proven to Help Poor Posture
A large research paper out of Canada, investigated the benefits of exercise for improving upper back posture.¬† Researchers looked at 13 different studies.¬† They were interested in how exercise influences age-related hyper-kyphosis.¬† Kyphosis refers to the normal natural curvature in your upper back.¬† With age-related changes and a sedentary lifestyle this curvature worsens.¬† Increased kyphosis is linked to upper back pain.
Most studies showed a benefit to exercise for reducing the angle of kyphosis.¬† In other words, exercise improves rounded shoulder posture.¬† Spinal extension exercises and various forms of yoga are most beneficial for improving posture. ¬†This article shows 3 simple stretches you can perform in your own home.¬† More importantly, the 3 strengthening exercises performed regularly will result in the greatest improvements in pain.
Stretching Exercises for Upper Back Pain
Have you ever noticed how often you look down during the day?¬† You look down when you work on your computer.¬† You look down when wash your dishes.¬† And you probably look down most of the time when you walk.¬† Your upper back is going to follow the lead of your head.¬† When your head drops, your shoulders round, and your upper back flexes.¬† Stretching exercises will help.
It is important to improve the flexibility of your thoracic spine and the muscles of your chest and shoulders.¬† In particular, you will benefit from performing thoracic spine extension exercises.¬† A foam roll is helpful for these stretches.¬† An exercise ball or chair is helpful for stretching your lats.¬† All you need to stretch your pec muscles is a wall or door frame.¬† Tightness in your lats and pecs pull your shoulders forward.¬† Stretch these muscles daily.¬† Perform 2 to 3 stretches each time.¬† Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Strengthening Exercises for Upper Back Pain
Stretch the muscles that pull your shoulders forward.¬† And strengthen the muscles that pull your shoulders and spine back.¬† These muscles are found along your spine and between your shoulder blades.¬† It is best to perform exercises in a face down position.¬† This works your muscles against gravity.¬† It also keeps your spine in an extended position.¬† Remember, we want to improve your spine extension strength and pull your shoulders back.
These exercises can be performed daily.¬† We recommend a minimum of 3 days per week. They are intended to be performed without any weights.¬† But if they are feeling easy you can hold light dumbbells in your hands.¬† Proper form and building endurance is more important than adding weights. ¬†Start with 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps.¬† Work towards 20 to 30 reps per set.
Include Abdominal Strengthening Exercises
Believe it or not, the function of your abdominal muscles plays a role in your upper back posture.¬† Weak abdominals result in postural changes at your pelvis and lumbar spine.¬† To compensate for these changes down below, your upper back must round.¬† Strengthening only your upper back muscles will result in only partial pain relief.¬† Try working in a couple of the abdominal exercises included here.
¬†How to Get Started with Exercises for Upper Back Pain
These 6 exercises are proven to ways to ease your upper back pain.¬† They are a sample of many effective options.¬† You will also benefit from receiving¬†manual therapy¬†performed by your physical therapist.¬† As always, your unique presentation and goals dictates the approach that is best for you.¬† Improvements will be small at first but stick with it.¬† Commit to these exercises for at least 6 weeks. ¬†If you would like help getting started,¬†call our office¬†to schedule an initial evaluation with¬†your physical therapist.