The average person doesn’t go a day without hunching or slouching over some electronic device. People spend hours every day with poor posture at a computer or looking down at their phones scrolling through social media or emails. Some people may avoid technology altogether, but they round their shoulders when they stand, leading to both upper and lower back pain.
Tension between the shoulder blades, or tightness in the upper back, can radiate along the neck. When you do not address the pain, it’s possible to experience poor posture, circulation issues, shallow breathing, and neck strain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, roughly 80% of all working Americans experience back pain symptoms during their lives. One of the primary contributing factors is sedentary lifestyles.
There is some good news, though. You can keep muscles flexible with simple stretching exercises that help alleviate pain and tension. Effectively stretching the upper back can counteract the tightness and tension from everyday living. Just be careful that you don’t overstretch, as that can easily exhaust the muscles and increase pain. As you perform the following stretches, focus on moving with your breath, deepening the stretch on the exhale. Remember: relieve tension and don’t hurt yourself.
Child’s pose helps to relieve pressure in the lower and upper back by elongating the spine. The decompressing action gives you a nice stretch. Start by kneeling on your mat with your knees hip-distance apart and your feet together behind you. Take a big inhale and lay your torso forward onto your thighs as you exhale, extending your arms overhead. If you can, rest your forehead on the ground. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat two more times.
Standing Lat Stretch
The goal for this stretch is to stretch your lats, also known as the latissimus dorsi. Find a ledge that is about chest-height, for example, a fireplace mantle. If you can’t find a ledge like this, you can place your hands on a wall at the same height. Place your hands on the ledge or wall at about shoulder-width apart and keep your back flat. Keep your arms still and straight as you slowly hinge forward at the hips, allowing your head to drop toward your chest. Sink into the stretch until you feel a little tension along the sides of your upper and mid-back. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat two more times.
Upper Butterfly Stretch
The classic butterfly stretch aims to stretch the inner thighs while in a seated position. You can also perform this upper butterfly stretch in a seated position, targeting your upper back. Sit up straight and extend your arms out to the sides. Bend your arms to touch your fingertips to your shoulders. Keeping the fingers in place, exhale and bring your elbows forward until they touch in front of you. It’s integral to keep your back straight the entire time. Inhale and move the elbows back out to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, but take your time.
You can do this stretch standing or sitting. The important thing to remember is to not round your shoulders or slouch while performing this stretch. Keep your arms by your sides and shrug your shoulders up towards your ears. Try to shrug them as far up as possible and hold for three to five seconds. Roll them back and down in a circle until you return to the starting position. Repeat until you complete 10 repetitions and then complete 10 more repetitions, rolling forwards instead of backwards.
Even after you complete this stretch, you may want to remain in the position because you feel all the feels. Roll up a towel tightly and lay it horizontally on the ground. Lie on your back with the towel going across your shoulder blades. Extend your arms over your head and rest them on the ground. You can extend your legs out straight as well, but if it feels uncomfortable then you can bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground. Lie in this position for 30-60 seconds and then return your arms to a neutral position. Repeat two more times.