How to Do Upper Back Stretches to Relieve Pain

Pain Treatment Back & Neck Pain / March 13, 2023
Woman stretching her arms

Upper back pain affects nearly 23% of all adults. While some of this pain results from an injury that heals over time, it’s a chronic problem for others. Patients report that this pain often interferes with the quality of their daily lives, leaving them unable to participate happily in the activities of daily living. Difficulty concentrating, poor sleep quality, and pain while driving, sitting, and standing are among the most common complaints.

Many causes of upper back pain can leave the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and vertebrae affected. Misalignments, inflammation, and trauma to the area can also impact the cervical spine, leading to neck problems, headaches, and more.

At ChiroCare of Florida, we help patients overcome upper back pain through various treatments. Whether you’re healing from a surgery or injury, experiencing pain on the job, or have a subluxation that we can correct through manual manipulation of the spine, we’ll help you find the relief you need.

Additionally, we’ll go over the most common causes of upper back pain so you can be aware of possible triggers in the future. We’ll explain how stretching can help alleviate pain and how to conduct exercises at home properly.

With the proper combination of in-office chiropractic treatment and at-home maintenance, you can effectively manage upper back pain and improve your quality of life. You can reduce flare-ups, heal more quickly with back injury treatment, and minimize the need for medication or more severe intervention with holistic treatment options at ChiroCare of Florida.

Keep reading to learn more.

What Causes Upper Back Pain?

With so many adults struggling with upper back pain, one of the questions we often hear regards the leading causes. Once you know how the pain begins, it becomes easier to treat and avoid. There are many causes, some of which are chronic and others that can dissipate over time.

The five most common causes of upper back pain include:

1) Poor Posture

This is something we see time and time again and is one of the leading culprits regarding pain. Whether sitting or standing for an extended period, at home or work, not maintaining correct posture can strain your upper back. This leads to tense muscles, misalignments in the spine, and more.

Those who spend lots of time driving may also experience pain resulting from poor posture. While this cause tends to originate from habit or a work set-up that’s not ergonomic, you can correct the issue over time and with the help of visits to your chiropractor and stretching your upper back.

2) Trauma and Injury

Another common cause of upper back pain is trauma or injury to the area. This is most commonly seen in athletes who engage in high-impact sports or sports like tennis, golf, and baseball. However, trauma and injury can happen at any point in everyday life; especially when we least expect it. Upper back and neck injury treatment can help these injuries heal more quickly, especially when you use proper stretching techniques.

Car accidents and slips and falls can also cause trauma to the back, as can strains and sprains from grasping for something just out of reach. Trauma to the upper back can also happen via impact. This is a less common form of injury, with an example of being hit with a falling or swinging object. Anything that comes in contact with your back forcefully can cause trauma and pain to the surrounding tissue and spine.

Upper back pain may also present as a primary symptom, but it may result from a neck injury such as whiplash, strains, sprains, and more. Your chiropractor will evaluate your neck and cervical spine at your appointment to see if this may be the cause.

3) Overuse

Overuse is another cause of upper back pain that we often see at ChiroCare of Florida. Again, this is often seen in athletes who practice and play regularly. This is especially true for those who suddenly increase the intensity or frequency of their workout routine, as well as those who weight lift.

But overuse doesn’t only occur in those who play sports. It’s also commonly seen in those who perform manual labor or bend down and reach up repeatedly, either at work or home. This puts strain on the muscles, especially if you’re not maintaining a healthy, proper posture as you do so.

4) Tech Neck

A specific form of poor posture, the term “tech neck,” has become popular in recent years. As many people spend a lot of time looking down at their phones or computer screens, it can put undue stress on the vertebrae at the base of your neck and the top of your back. Even those who spend lots of time studying crunched-over textbooks can experience this phenomenon.

5) Chronic Health Conditions

While many causes of upper back pain result from lifestyle changes that you can change over time, others are not. A few chronic health conditions can cause pain in the area, though stretching and chiropractic treatment can help manage symptoms.

Arthritis and osteoarthritis, herniated disks, vertebral stenosis, lung cancer, heart problems, infection, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, spinal deformities, and problematic kyphosis are a few examples. These are rare, but if your pain is chronic and does not respond to treatment, or you have an existing diagnosis, consult your specialist to see if chiropractic treatment and stretching may benefit your condition.

Can Stretching Fix Upper Back Pain?

Regularly using the proper stretches can help avoid and minimize upper back pain. It can help loosen tight muscles that result from poor posture and tech neck and help maintain the progress you make during the course of chiropractic treatment when healing from injuries or managing chronic health conditions. For those who experience pain on the job, stretching regularly can help ward off the associated pain.

However, don’t wait until you notice the pain starting to creep up on you before starting your stretch routine. Incorporating upper back stretches into your daily life can help prevent the pain from starting in the first place. You can do many stretches at your desk, at your job, or at home in your free time.

Stretching before and after physical activity, upon waking in the morning and going to sleep at night, and throughout the day are key ways to help alleviate pain and stop it from interrupting your day.

How to Stretch Your Upper Back

At ChiroCare of Florida, we can provide you with an excellent routine to help stretch your upper back and alleviate symptoms. However, there are stretches you can try at home all on your own before even visiting an office. If you have a chronic health condition or are healing from surgery or any other injury, please check with your healthcare provider first to avoid aggravating the area further.

Here are five upper back stretches to try at home or throughout your day:

1) Shoulder Drops and Squeezes

This is a simple upper back stretch that you can do virtually anywhere, and it’s super easy to learn. In fact, you can try it right now as you read along. Take a moment to drop your shoulders and then “squeeze” them back. Imagine that you’re trying to hold a softball in place with your shoulder blades. Hold this position for ten seconds and repeat it three to five times.

2) Chin Tucks

Here’s another stretch you can try right now that takes minimal effort yet can yield great results. Tuck your chin in toward your throat or the front of your neck. Act as if you’re trying to produce a “double chin.” This is an excellent way to help stretch the vertebrae and muscles at the very top of your upper back, easing pain associated with tech neck.

3) Standing Arm Raises

This is an excellent option for those who stand all day at work or need to stand up from their desk to stretch for a moment. While standing, raise both your arms above your head and grab one hand with your wrist with the other. Using the arm holding onto your wrist, gently pull the other arm to the side while keeping your back straight. Hold this pose for twenty to thirty seconds and then repeat on the other side.

4) Arm Retract Stretches

There are two ways to perform arm retract stretches; you can do them one after the other. The first is a “W” retract stretch, and the second is a “Y” retract stretch. To complete the “W” stretch, square your arms with your shoulders to create the shape of a “W.” Lower your arms slowly as far as you can with the intent to touch your ribs with your elbows. At the same time, squeeze your shoulders back as you did in stretch one. Hold this position for two to three breaths.

To complete the “Y” stretch, hold your arms in the air above your head to create a “Y” shape (think of the song YMCA). Hold this position for several breaths before moving back into the “W” position and repeating the elbow drop. Repeat several times.

5) Yoga Poses

Getting involved in yoga can significantly help all sorts of aches, pains, and tension and improve your mood. It increases the feeling of relaxation and can reduce stress. Some stretches in yoga routines can also help with upper back pain. You don’t have to pay the high price of joining a yoga studio if you don’t want to—you can look the poses up online or check them out on video streaming services for free.

Some of the best yoga poses for upper back pain include:

Are There Tools to Help Stretch Your Upper Back?

While stretching can help your upper back pain, some tools and instruments can also improve the process. Some of the most popular tools include foam rollers, plastic or wood curved stretchers that you can lay on, resistance bands, and posture correctors. Speak with your doctor or chiropractor before adding any tools to your stretching routine so you can learn how to use them properly. Often, wearing a posture corrector for a portion of the day produces fantastic results in a short amount of time.

Your chiropractor may also use tools during your appointment to help with your upper back pain. These tools aren’t for home use but may include E-STIM (electrical stimulation), ultrasound therapy, and deep stretching using concave or convex metal instruments to reach deep beneath the skin and target the soft tissue.

If you’re struggling with upper back pain, contact us today to schedule an appointment to see real results.

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