The upper back is also called the middle or thoracic back, and is located on the bottom of the neck, reaching all the way to the top of the lumbar spine. The upper spine consists of 12 vertebrae that attach to the ribs, forming a protective barrier to the internal organs such as the heart, liver, and lungs. Upper back pain can occur for a number of reasons including muscular irritation from overuse, poor conditioning, and trauma.
Strengthening exercises are essential for relieving the pain from upper back distress. This may include a combination of weight lifting and stretches to strengthen the upper body for proper posturing. It’s important to follow the instructions of your back specialist to avoid further injury or damage to painful muscle tissue.
Which your therapist may prescribe include:
- thoracic extension – sit on a chair. Clasp both arms behind your head, gently arching backwards and look up. Do this ten times. This is a exercise has many benefits and can be done several times a day.
- scapular squeezes – in a sitting position your arms are at your sides, gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold this for five seconds.
- arm slides – stand against a wall, place your elbows and wrists against the wall. Slowly slide your arms up as high as you can. Try and keep your both elbow and wrists against the wall. Repeat three sets of ten.
- pectoralis stretch – stand in a corner or doorway, place both arms on the wall slightly above your head. Slowly lean forward, until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Do this three times.
- thoracic stretch –
1. In a seated position on the floor, feet straight in front of you. Hold your mid-thighs with your hands. Slowly move your head/neck as to curl toward your belly button. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat three times.
2. Point your right elbow and shoulder forward while twisting your upper body to the left, will stretch your right upper back. Hold for 15 seconds. To stretch your left side point your left elbow and repeat as mentioned.
- mid-trap exercise – you’ll need a flat firm surface and a pillow for this exercise. Lie on your stomach, place the pillow (folded in half) underneath your chest. Your arms should be straight out at your sides, thumbs pointing to the ceiling. Raise your arms towards the ceiling and squeeze your shoulder blades…lower slowly. Repeat three sets of 15. Once your strength increases add a can of soup or small weight to yours hands.
Other exercises to strengthen the upper back include push-ups. Push-ups can be modified to fit your beginning fitness level. The key to successful upper body strengthening with push-ups is to avoid arching the back, or allowing the back to sag. This can cause pain to the lower back. Shift the burden of weight to the core of your body by contracting the midsection.
In addition to strengthening exercises, many physical therapists recommend Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ to enhance the blood flow to the deep muscle tissue.