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How to Fix Upper Back Pain (No More Knots!)

Fix your pain.

These expert tips from Jeff Cavaliere will help you fix upper back pain.

How to Fix Upper Back Pain

“Have you ever wondered how to fix upper back pain? You know, that spot on your back where it feels like you have knots for days. In this video, I am going to breakdown why you are experiencing upper back pain and 5 moves you can do to fix it for good. There is no need to live in chronic pain when there’s a solution that will have your back feeling better right away.

Lower-back-pain How to Fix Upper Back PainSource: CrossFit / Depositphotos

“More often than not, when it comes to pain in the upper back, it doesn’t have to do with the muscles in the area (the rhomboids). Instead, it has more to do with the joints in the area and that is namely the thoracic spine. When there is a dysfunction in the thoracic spine, you will often feel it in the surrounding muscles, but because they are not the root cause, we aren’t going to be targeting them directly. Instead, the brunt of our focus for this video will be on mobilizing the thoracic spine.”

1. How to Fix Upper Back Pain – Rhomboid Push Up

“The first move that you can do to deal with your upper back pain is called the rhomboid push up. While not actually targeting the muscles in terms of strengthening them, they are active throughout the mobilization of the thoracic spine.”

“By allowing your chest to drop down towards the ground, you are contracting the muscles through their range of motion and as you protract to reach the top end of the pushup, you are placing them on stretch. Taking these muscles along for the ride as you move the thoracic spine will be the first step in eliminating that pain in the upper back.”

2. How to Fix Upper Back Pain – Wall Splat

“Next, you are going to need to stand close to a wall and perform the wall splat. The key takeaways for this move are to keep your arms spread wider in order to alleviate any potential shoulder discomfort, driving your knee towards to the wall, and sinking your hips into the movement as you try to bring yourself closer to the wall.”

“Doing the last two will help you to feel to move your thoracic spine deeper through the range of motion as you come closer to the wall. You will feel this almost instantly and will be good feedback on what your upper back should feel like when it has full range of motion.”

3. How to Fix Upper Back Pain – Can Openers

“The third move that you should perform in order to get rid of upper back pain is a mobilization drill that I like to call “can openers”. Simply get down on your knees and elbows, place one arm behind your head and rotate your upper back so that that arm is now pointing towards the ceiling.”

“Hold at the top for a few seconds before returning to rest and then repeating the move again. Something to note in this move is the actively retract the shoulder blade of the arm that is bent behind the head. Repeat on the other side to make sure you avoid any imbalances.”

4. How to Fix Upper Back Pain – 11:15 Stretch

“This stretch, the 11:15 stretch (as I like to call it,) not only works great, but feels great too. One of the biggest points to make note of on this move is to not only make sure that your arms are in the right position, but to retract the shoulder blade of the arm that is in the 15 position.”

“Just like with the can openers, while you want to reach out as far as you can in this position, you also want to actively retract that scapula. This willl help to reinforce the mobilization of the thoracic spine which is key in order to fix that upper back pain you’ve been going through.”

“The last move that you can perform here in this sequence is one that I’ve suggest that you should do every day in order to feel amazing. This is called the bridge and reach over.”

“Not only does this movement help to mobilize the thoracic spine with the reach over, but it also allows for the entire kinetic chain to get involved so that you are moving multiple parts of your body in concert. From your feet all the way up to your head, you are working everything in tandem and making sure that everything mobilized. I think this is one of the best things you can do for any back pain, especially in the upper back.”

Video – How to Fix Upper Back Pain

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What are the Muscles of the Upper Back?

The muscles of the upper back are mainly responsible for movement and stabilization of the scapulae (shoulder blades), as well as extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of the spine. Some of the major muscles of the upper back include:

  • Trapezius: This is a large, diamond-shaped muscle that runs from the base of the skull, along the spine and out to the shoulder blades. It is responsible for lifting and lowering the shoulder blades, as well as rotating them.
  • Rhomboids: There are two rhomboid muscles (major and minor) that lie deep to the trapezius, connecting the spine to the shoulder blades. They help to retract the shoulder blades, pulling them towards the spine.
  • Levator scapulae: This muscle runs from the top of the shoulder blade to the upper cervical spine. It is responsible for lifting the shoulder blade and rotating it inward.
  • Latissimus dorsi: This is a large muscle that covers the mid to lower back. It is responsible for adduction, extension, and medial rotation of the arm, as well as stabilization of the lower back and pelvis.
  • Teres major and minor: These two muscles attach to the scapula and humerus and help to rotate and adduct the arm.
  • Serratus anterior: This muscle runs from the ribs to the shoulder blade and is responsible for protracting (pulling forward) the shoulder blade and stabilizing it against the rib cage.

These muscles work together to provide stability and movement to the upper back, shoulder blades, and arms.

Why is a Strong Back Important?

A strong back is important for several reasons:

Posture: Strong back muscles help to maintain good posture by keeping the spine in a neutral position. Good posture can reduce the risk of developing back pain and prevent spinal problems.

Injury prevention: A strong back can help prevent injuries, particularly when performing physical activities that involve the upper body. Strengthening the back muscles can help to stabilize the spine and reduce the risk of strains, sprains, and other injuries.

Balance and coordination: The back muscles are involved in many movements that require balance and coordination, such as reaching, twisting, and bending. A strong back can improve balance and coordination, which can be beneficial for sports and other physical activities.

Functional strength: A strong back can improve overall functional strength, allowing you to perform everyday activities with greater ease, such as carrying groceries, lifting children, and doing household chores.

Athletic performance: In many sports, a strong back is essential for optimal performance. Strong back muscles can help to generate power and force, allowing you to jump higher, run faster, and throw farther.

Overall, a strong back is important for maintaining good posture, preventing injuries, improving balance and coordination, increasing functional strength, and enhancing athletic performance.

What Other Exercises are Effective for Strengthening the Back?

There are many exercises that are effective for strengthening the back, and the specific exercises you choose will depend on your fitness level, goals, and any underlying health conditions. Here are some exercises that are commonly used to strengthen the back:

  • Pull-ups and chin-ups: These exercises are great for strengthening the upper back and arms. They target the lats, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles.
  • Rows: There are many variations of row exercises, including bent-over rows, seated rows, and single-arm rows. These exercises target the rhomboids, trapezius, and lats.
  • Deadlifts: Deadlifts are a compound exercise that work multiple muscle groups, including the lower back, glutes, and legs.
  • Back extensions: Back extensions can be done with or without equipment, and they target the erector spinae muscles that run along the spine.
  • Supermans: This exercise involves lying face down on the ground and lifting the arms and legs off the ground at the same time, targeting the lower back muscles.
  • Planks: Planks are a great exercise for strengthening the core, including the muscles of the lower back. To make this exercise more challenging, try doing a side plank or adding in leg lifts.
  • Yoga: Many yoga poses can help to strengthen the back muscles, including the downward dog, cobra, and cat-cow pose.

It’s important to note that proper form and technique are essential for preventing injury and maximizing the benefits of each exercise.

If you’re new to exercise or have an underlying health condition, it’s a good idea to consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.

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