If you keep experiencing intense pain that radiates across your mid-back, then it may be time to pay more attention to your posture by doing a few mid-back stretches throughout the day.
Poor posture is one of the most common causes of this type of
mid-back pain, says Alina Kennedy, a physiotherapist, strength and conditioning specialist, and owner of Bloom Fitness. “Quite often this happens to office workers and occurs when they sit slouched for an extended period,” she tells Bustle.
Sitting with poor posture impacts the
muscles of the mid-back and causes them to get tired. “If this happens day-in-day-out then it can lead to chronic pain and stiffness,” Kennedy says. Stretching the lower and mid trapezium muscles, the rhomboids, and your latissimus dorsi — aka your lats — can help.
According to chiropractor
Dr. Grant K Radermacher, DC, mid-back pain can also stem from issues with your thoracic facet joints in you spine. “When these joints get stuck and become inflamed, your body recruits the surrounding muscles to help support and protect them,” he tells Bustle. And that’s when you get that pulling, stabbing, achey type of pain.
Stretching can not only help correct your posture, but it may also help to mobilize stiff muscles and joints, adds
Kim Trimmer, MEd, C-IAT, ERYT-500, a certified yoga therapist and owner of InsideOut Yoga. “Stretching helps to loosen and lengthen the muscles that tighten and helps retrain proper alignment,” she says. Here, experts share the best mid-back stretches to try. 1. Seated Twist
Trimmer recommends doing this seated twist periodically throughout the day to prevent mid-back pain.
- Sit with your legs crossed and knees lower than hips. Or sit tall in your chair.
- Inhale and think about breathing into your mid-back.
- Exhale and turn your shoulders and ribcage to the right.
- Hold for five breaths.
- Exhale and turn your shoulders and ribcage to the left.
- Hold for five breaths.
2. Cow’s Head Stretch
Trimmer also likes this stretch to hit the lat muscles, aka the largest muscles of the back that run down your spine and
extend from the shoulder blades to your pelvis. She recommends setting a timer so you remember to stretch throughout the day.
- Reach your right arm overhead with your palm facing behind you.
- Bend your elbow as if you’re patting yourself on the back.
- Keep that elbow pointing as straight up as possible.
- Use your left hand to support that elbow pointing up.
- Hold for a count of 15 to 20.
- Shake arms out and repeat on the other side.
3. Cat Cow to Child’s Pose
According to chiropractor
Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, the cat cow yoga stretch with a child’s pose tacked on the end is one of the best stretch combos you can do to alleviate mid-back pain.
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Focusing on your mid-back, dip your stomach down towards the ground as far as possible while keeping your shoulders and hips steady. This is the cow.
- From this position, lift and round the mid-back up as high as possible while keeping your shoulders and hips steady. This is the cat.
- Once there, slowly sit back onto your legs and feet while keeping your hands planted for a child’s pose stretch.
- Perform three sets of 10 reps in a slow, controlled manner.
4. Thread The Needle
From child’s pose, Radermacher recommends doing a “reach under” stretch to further target the mid-back.
- Start by kneeling on the floor with your feet together and your knees hip-width apart.
- Rest your hands on your thighs.
- Lower your upper body between your knees.
- Extend your arms forward with your palms facing down.
- Relax your shoulders toward the ground.
- Twisting your torso towards your left side, take your right arm and reach through the gap between your left arm and leg to “thread the needle.”
- You should feel the stretch throughout your mid/upper back and ribcage.
- Hold this position for five to 10 seconds.
- Switch to the opposite side.
- Do a total of five reps on each side.
5. Wall Angel
Kennedy suggests doing this “wall angel” move.
- Sit on the floor with your legs crossed and your back and head against a wall.
- Raise your elbows to shoulder height and move your wrists back towards the wall.
- The goal is to touch your wrists to the wall, however, the tightness in your mid-back might limit your ability to do so, she says.
- Either hold the position where you feel a stretch or gently move your forearms up and down the wall.
- Do this stretch for 60 seconds every couple of hours.
6. Open Book Exercise
Dan Baumann, PT of ProRehab PC recommends this rotational stretch to mobilize tight mid-back muscles.
- Lie on your side with knees and hips flexed.
- The closer your knees are to your chest, the higher up your back you’ll feel the stretch.
- Keep both arms extended out in front of you.
- Lift the top arm away from the one you are lying on and open it like the page of a book.
- Reach your top arm open and rest it on the floor behind you.
- If you can’t quite reach the floor, that’s OK.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat five to 10 times each way.
7. Thoracic Extension
Baumann also suggests this stretch, especially if you work in front of a computer all day. “This is less of an actual stretch and more of a way to get out of bad posture,” he tells Bustle.
- Sit up tall in your chair.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Focus on sitting straight to fix your posture.
- Hold for three to five seconds.
- Repeat 10 times every hour.
8. Cross Arm Stretch
It’ll also feel good to do the classic cross-arm stretch that you might remember from gym class. According to certified strength and conditioning coach
Joseph Sudimack, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, it’ll help loosen up tight rhomboid and trapezius muscles.
- Bring your right arm across your body.
- Gently pull it by placing your left arm behind the elbow.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Do two to four reps on each side.
9. Doorway Stretch
Try this one to open up your chest muscles and improve your posture, Sudimack says.
- Stand in a doorway or near a wall.
- Bend your right arm at 90 degrees.
- Press your forearm against the door frame.
- Take a step forward with your left leg while maintaining an upright posture.
- Lunge until you feel a stretch in your chest and back.
- Place your arm higher or lower to adjust the feeling of the stretch.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat two to four times with each arm.
10. Chest Opener
Remember, the location of your pain isn’t necessarily where the problem is, says
Mara Kimowitz, the founder and CEO of StretchSource and Pliability Stretch Academy. So here’s another chest-focused stretch that’ll benefit your back.
- Begin by sitting comfortably.
- Clasp your hands behind your back.
- Press your hands into the seat while straightening your arms.
- For an additional stretch, you can raise your chest to the ceiling and look up.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and release.
- Repeat two to three times.
11. Thoracic Rotation
The bright side? You don’t have to do all of these stretches every day, says
Claire Morrow, a senior physical therapy consultant at Hinge Health. “I always recommend picking the one that feels the best and doing that one at least once a day,” she says.
- Starting on your hands and knees, place one hand behind your head, close to your neck.
- Lift that elbow up toward the ceiling as you twist your upper back and open up your chest.
- Follow your elbow with your eyes.
- Hold this position for three to five seconds.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times per side.
- Repeat two to three sets.
Sources: Alina Kennedy, physiotherapist, strength and conditioning specialist Dr. Grant K Radermacher, DC, chiropractor Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, chiropractor Dan Baumann, PT , physical therapist Joseph Sudimack, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, certified strength and conditioning coach Mara Kimowitz, founder and CEO of StretchSource and Pliability Stretch Academy Claire Morrow, senior physical therapy consultant
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