5 Stretches for Upper Back and Neck Pain

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Thursday January 5, 2023

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If you have muscle pain, you may find that it gets in the way of doing the things you love, especially when important muscle groups like those in your upper back and neck hurt the most. You may feel pain in these areas because of overuse, sudden motion, awkward sleeping positions or poor posture. In any of these cases, you’re likely experiencing a muscular strain. 

After the initial swelling and inflammation subside, stretching can help you reduce the pain and restore your full range of motion. A good stretch will also increase blood flow to the area so your muscles can heal faster. In this article, we’ll discuss five of the best stretches for neck and upper back pain.   

1. Overhead Reach

This first stretch will address muscles in your upper back and shoulders. 

Start by sitting in a chair with an upright posture — your shoulders parallel with the ground, your feet flat on the floor and your eyes straight ahead. 

While still seated, raise your right arm straight into the air. Then, reach to the left and lean to that side to make a C-shape with your upper body. Move slowly and keep your core straight as your reach to the left. Bend at the upper back — not the waist. 

After a few seconds, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise five times, then do the same with the left arm. 

2. Seated Levator Scapulae Stretch 

This seated stretch will work the muscles in the back of your neck. 

In a seated position with proper posture, grab the bottom of your chair with your left hand for support. Using your right hand, cup the back of your head with your right elbow pointed forward. 

Pull your head down and slightly to the right so your chin goes toward your chest. You’ll feel the stretch in the back left of your neck. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and slowly release. 

Repeat the exercise with the opposite arm. Then, do it again using both hands and pulling straight down to target the back of your neck exclusively. 

3. Midback Stretch 

The midback stretch addresses your middle and upper back

If you can, do this stretch on carpet or a soft mat. Start by kneeling on the ground with the tops of your feet on the floor and your bottom on your heels. 

Next, raise both arms above your head and lean forward until your chest, forehead and palms are parallel with the ground. 

When you reach this position, gradually bring your chest toward the ground as far as you can. Hold this position for 30 seconds before releasing. Repeat the exercise three to five times. 

4. Neck Rolls 

Our fourth stretch addresses the sides and back of your neck and the upper back. 

Start by sitting or standing upright. Then, tilt your head to the right until you feel a slight stretch on the left side of your neck. From here, you’ll roll your head toward the middle of your chest. You should feel the stretch move to the back of your neck. 

Continue the motion until your head reaches your left shoulder and you feel the stretch on your right side. Then, pause for a moment before rolling your head back to the right. 

Use slow, controlled motion and repeat the exercise two or three times. 

5. Shoulder Rolls 

To start, hold your arms at your sides in a loose, natural position. Then, moving both arms at once, roll your shoulders forward and then go backward, completing a complete circle with each rotation. You don’t need to go extremely high, like you’re touching your shoulders to your ears, but elevate them enough to feel the stretch.

The final stretch on our list is for your shoulders and upper back. 

After rolling your shoulders in a backward circle 5 to 10 times, roll them in the opposite direction. 

By using these stretches, you can help alleviate your discomfort and help your muscles heal faster. Try them today to start living life without constant acute pain.

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