Tip Tuesday: Strengthening Exercises for Upper Back Pain

As you have seen over the last couple weeks, most upper back pain is a result of an imbalance or dysfunction in the muscles. Our body does a great job adapting, but sometimes we need to nudge it in the right direction. I am going to add a disclaimer that these are just general suggestions. As I have stated before, every body and situation is different. Try these suggestions at your own risk. So we are going to jump right in to some helpful exercises that will help to wake-up and strengthen the muscles that may be weakened and need it most.

Chin Tuck

Stand with your back up against a wall. Gently lengthen your neck upwards as you tuck in your chin. Think of the motion of creating 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chins. Hold in that position for 2-3 seconds and release. Do this 10-15 repititions, 2-3 times a day.

Seated Rows

This exercise focuses on the muscles of the mid and upper back. These muscles support your core and also help to draw the shoulder blades down and back. When these muscles are strong, you get less of the rounding forward of the shoulders. To do a seated row, you will need a cable rowing machine. Sit on the bench, knees bent and back straight. Grab the handle, brace your core, and take it away. Pull the handle/weight back toward your lower abdomen. Make sure you are using the correct muscles in the middle and upper back by squeezing your shoulder blades together as you bring the handle back. Return it forward, slowly. Repeat 10-15 times in 2-3 sets. You can also do a bent row with a free weight or barbell, but that exercise is advanced and requires proper technique.

Scapular Squeeze

With your arms down by your sides, pull your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Do 3-5 times.


Lay on your stomach with your arms out in front of you and over your head (just like you are flying like superman!). Keeping your neck neutral (looking down), raise your arms and legs up at the same time. Make sure you are using your butt and back muscles. Hold for 1 second and with control lower back to the ground. Try 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Wake Up Time

These exercises really help to wake up some under active muscles on the back side of the body. Our body works most efficiently and pain free when the muscles are balanced and are all doing their job. Some muscles are under active and need to get back to work. Opposite to those under active muscles are typically overactive muscles that are doing too much work. These are typically the muscles on the front of the body. Overactive chest muscles are a major contributor to upper back and neck pain. While strengthening the upper back and neck helps to create more balance, adding in chest stretches will help as well.

I truly hope you found this series on upper back pain helpful. Next week starts a new month and with it a fun 30 day challenge/experiment. Come join us!!

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