Many adults suffer from tight upper back muscles due to technology, poor posture, and office jobs. This can lead to pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and it can also cause headaches. If you’re wondering how to stretch upper back muscles properly, here are some simple tips for you to follow!

How Can You Avoid Hurting Yourself?

Stretching your upper back is supposed to relieve pain and tension, but if you aren’t doing the stretches correctly, it can cause even more pain. How do you stretch those muscles in your upper back without hurting yourself? Here are some of the best things to do.

Maintain the Proper Position

Having the correct positioning during a stretch makes a big difference. You’ll want to learn how to position yourself so the stretches can be both safe and effective. This a big reason why assisted stretching is great for beginners.

Breathing is one way to help your body relax so you can maintain the proper placement.


yoga teacher stretching


Do the Right Stretch

Doing the wrong stretch at the wrong time can do more harm than good. Typically, you’ll want to perform dynamic stretches before any physical activity and static stretches after.

Dynamic stretching moves the muscles through the whole range of motion and mimics the movements you will do during the workout. It’s supposed to warm up and stretch the muscles and joints. Static stretching involves elongating your muscles at their furthest range of motion and holding the position. It’s supposed to help relieve muscle fatigue and speed up recovery.

Don’t Hold the Stretch for Too Long

Did you know that holding a static stretch for too long can make you feel stiffer? You could also risk overstretching and putting yourself at a greater risk of injury. You want to hold a stretch long enough to lengthen your tissue and muscle fibers but not short enough that it becomes ineffective. Thirty seconds up to 2 minutes is usually a good amount of time and you can increase as you progress.

Avoid Rolling Your Neck Backward

Neck rolls are great for loosening up the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. However, it’s good practice not to roll your neck backward, as it can pinch blood vessels and nerves. Hyperextending your neck in this position can also increase pressure on your cervical discs, increasing the natural cervical spine degeneration process. So remember when doing this, possibly as part of a pose o r stretch to do it slowly and be conscious of the movement.


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Stop if You Feel Pain

Slight pressure during a stretch is normal; feeling a sharp pain is not. You don’t want to push yourself past your limits while stretching, or else you could risk injuring yourself.

If your back always hurts after stretching, it could be because of a problem with nerve restriction in your spine. Stretching will cause more pain if that’s the case, so it’s good to check in with your doctor if this is happening to you.

Best Upper Back Stretches

Is it hard to function because of upper back pain? There are some great stretches out there that target those upper back muscles! Talk to your stretching practitioner or yoga instructor about learning these upper back moves so you can start feeling better.

Egyptian Back Stretch

This move might be a bit difficult for those who lack flexibility in their upper body. The Egyptian back stretch is great for stretching the upper back muscles. It may seem like a tangled mess at first, so it’s wise to perform this stretch under the supervision of a professional to ensure you’re doing it right.

Standing tall with your back straight, you should place your left arm vertically in front of your face with your pinky facing out. Next, your right arm will go under your left elbow. Your stretch practitioner will help raise your arms as high as you’re comfortable with, and you’ll feel the muscles between your shoulders stretch.

Doorway Stretch

A simpler stretch that targets your upper back is the doorway stretch, or a pectoral stretch. Proper positioning is important for this one so you can target the upper back and pectoral muscles. To perform this stretch, you’ll need to step into a doorway with your forearm placed against the doorframe. Your arm should form a 90-degree angle. Your stretch practitioner will guide you in leaning your body forward slightly until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders.

Overhead Arm Reach

The overhead arm reach targets not only your upper back but also stretches the shoulders and sides. You can perform this move either sitting or standing. You’ll have to extend one arm above your head and reach to the opposite direction. A stretch practitioner will assist you in bending your torso until you feel the stretch in the latissimus dorsi or your back and your shoulder.


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Scapular Squeeze

The scapular squeeze, or shoulder blade squeeze, focuses on the rhomboids. Those are the central muscles in your upper back responsible for maintaining good posture and connecting the shoulder blades to the rib cage and spine. Your arms should be down by your sides, and you’re going to squeeze your shoulder blades together. If this is a new move for you, start by doing it under the supervision of a stretching professional, so they can ensure you’re doing it correctly.

Other Ways to Prevent Upper Back Pain

You can do more than just stretch to prevent upper back pain. It’s all about having a healthy lifestyle! Follow these tips to keep your back pain-free and healthy.

  • Lift properly
  • Eat well
  • Regularly exercise
  • Practice good posture
  • Maintain a good weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Sleep on your back or side

Want to Learn How to Stretch Upper Back Muscles?

Now that you’ve learned the best tips on how to stretch upper back muscles and prevent pain, it’s time to put your knowledge to good use! Aching backs are never fun, but proper stretching and taking care of yourself will combat stiffness and tightness once and for all.


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