Let’s be honest; our bodies’ design isn’t always compatible with how we use them in today’s world. We’re not exactly doing our bodies any favors with our most common everyday habits.
Your regular computer and phone use means that you probably spend a lot of time with your head and eyes faced downwards. Fact is, you’re fixated on your phone screen more than you probably realize. And this downward head position (tech neck) can take a toll on your body, leading to upper and lower back pain, neck stiffness, and in some cases, headaches.
Your upper back and neck muscles can become tight and weak with maintained time in positions like this. This strain can restrict their strength potential as well as their extensibility. All that while reinforcing other poor postural attitudes.
If you’re feeling any aches in your upper back, neck, or shoulders, your posture is probably the culprit. The best way to get rid of a stiff upper back is to take the time to perform simple yet powerful upper back stretches and neck strengthening exercises.
Upper Back Pain Relief Exercises
Neck Side Bend and Rotation
Sit or stand and begin by gently turning your neck to the right. You should feel the stretch through your neck muscles all the way to your traps.
Do this for about 10 seconds, then slowly roll your head in the other direction. Rest for 10 seconds when you reach your right shoulder.
Complete the set by finishing where you started. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times.
Sit sideways on a chair. Your right side should be leaning on the back of the chair. Keeping your legs fixed, gently turn your chest to the right, reaching for the back of the chair.
Hold your upper body on that first turn, and use your arms to stretch as much as possible to loosen your muscles.
Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat exercise 3 times on each side.
Begin on all fours. Place your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Inhale as you tuck your pelvis and round out your mid-back like a cat. Pull your abdomen toward your spine while dropping your head to loosen your neck.
After 3-5 seconds, breathe, and retire to the starting position.
Then turn your head facing the sky, letting your back fall toward the ground. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
Start on all fours on the ground.
With your big toes side by side, open your knees as far apart as they’ll go and rest your butt onto your feet. Sit straight up with your arms stretched above your head.
Then, hinge at the waistline and lower your upper body forward between your legs.
Let your shoulders spread, your forehead touch the floor, and your butt sink back.
Hold for at least 20 seconds.
For maximum effects, use a foam roller or a chair.
If you’re practicing on a foam roller, place it beneath your thoracic spine, allow your head and butt to fall on both sides. Spread your arms above your head to increase the stretch.
If you’re practicing on a chair, sit facing forward and allow your upper body to hang over the back of the chair. Spread your arms above your head for a more profound stretch.
Hold the position for 15 seconds and breathe. Repeat this exercise 3 times.
Rest on your stomach with your arms stretched above your head.
Keeping your neck relaxed, raise your arms and legs together, making sure you use your back and glutes to lift. Hold briefly at the top and return to the starting position.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
With your arms resting by each side, press your shoulder blades together and hold for 10-15 seconds, and release. Repeat this 3 to 5 times.
Knee to Chest
Lay with your back flat on the floor. Bend and bring your left knee to your chest. Hold for 15 seconds and release and then repeat with the other leg. Complete the exercise 3 times.
You’ll need a wall for this one. Place your forearms on the wall, making sure your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Let the weight of your body sink forward gently so that you feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. Hold for 15 seconds and release. Repeat this exercise 3 times.
Overhead Arm Reach
Sitting in a chair with both of your feet on the ground, extend your right arm up above your head. Bend to the left until you feel the stretch in your right lat and shoulder. Return to the original position. Repeat 3 times with your left arm.
In most cases, neck and back discomforts can be managed at home with daily stretching and regular strengthening. However, if your pain persists — or worsens — with the stretches above, you should talk to a doctor or other physician. Your aches could be linked to an underlying infirmity that requires professional handling.
Try to complete one of the stretching sequences daily to recover mobility and alleviate any pain. And make sure to warm up before performing the stretches. Unsure where to go from there? Check out more of our helpful guides: