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Upper Back Pain: 4 Exercises and 4 Stretches to Get Relief and Correct Poor Posture

Hunching and bunching over phones and computers can lead to poor posture and a lot of pain.  But you can work on making both better.

When you’re focused on your devices, your posture can take a hit. How? The back muscles of the neck and shoulders can become strained and overactive while you’re standing, or sitting for long periods of time and your head is pushed forward focusing on work (or Candy Crush Saga). When that happens, the muscles in the front of the chest become tight and shortened. And, voila! Upper back pain becomes your new ever-constant companion, otherwise known as upper crossed syndrome.

Our exercise physiologists – always here to help us with our anatomical aches and pains – have some quick and easy exercises and stretches to get your muscles and spine back in line. So, while we all work on achieving a perfect posture, let’s relieve our pain with these moves:

4 Exercises to Improve Posture

Floor Cobra

  • Lie on your stomach with your hands by your sides, facing forward and positioned directly under your shoulders.
  • Extend your legs and point your toes away from your body.
  • Gently exhale and press your hips into the floor and pull your chest away from the ground while keeping your hips stable. This will arch your low back and stretch the muscles in your chest and abdominal region.
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Gently relax and lower your upper body to rest back upon the floor.


Ball Combination

  • Lie on your stomach on a stability ball and extend your arms in front of you, forming the letter “I” with your thumbs towards the ceiling.
  • Lift your arms by squeezing your shoulder blades together in back, keeping your head neutral with your spine. Slowly lower your arms.
  • Extend your arms in front again, this time forming the letter “Y” with your thumbs still up toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your arms.
  • Extend your arms out to the side one last time, forming the letter “T” with your palms turned toward the floor. Slowly lower your arms.
  • Repeat this move 10 to 15 times.



  • In a staggered stance position, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in the hand on the opposite side of your front leg.
  • Draw in your navel and brace your stomach muscles, hinge from your hips, keep your spine neutral and row your arm back, driving through the elbow and retracting the scapula.
  • Repeat this move 10 to 15 times.


External Rotation

  • Begin with your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Hold a towel between your elbow and your side.
  • Lift and open your chest, rolling your shoulders back and down.
  • Maintain this posture throughout the exercise.
  • In the same hand, hold the band with your palm facing up, rotate your arm to point your thumb behind you, stretching the band.
  • Return to your starting position and repeat this move 10 to 15 times on each arm.

4 Stretches to Relieve Upper Back Pain

hin Tuck

  • Sit upright and look straight ahead with your ears directly over your shoulders.
  • Place a finger on your chin.
  • Without moving your finger, pull your chin and head straight back until a good stretch is felt at the base of your head and top of your neck.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Bring your chin forward again.
  • Repeat this move 10 times.


hest Stretch

  • Bend your elbow and shoulder at a 90-degree angle.
  • Place your feet in a staggered stance position with your back leg on the same side as the chest muscle that is being stretched.
  • Slowly shift your weight forward until you feel the stretch in the front of your shoulder and chest.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.


Upper Trap Stretch

  • Sit in a chair and hold onto the underside of the seat with one hand.
  • Rotate your head to the opposite side of the hand that is under your chair.
  • Take your opposite hand and pull your head and nose toward your armpit.
  • Relax into the stretch, and hold 15 to 30 seconds.


Upper Trap Roll

  • Begin by placing two pliable balls or tennis balls on each side of your cervical spine, then walk your feet away from the wall and squat down as you press your body weight into the wall.
  • Create motion by moving up and down or side to side.
  • For trap release, move the balls onto the trapezius muscles and roll each side separately.

Ready for more moves? Check out our more workouts from our exercise physiologists.


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