What is upper back pain?

Upper Back Pain is usually referred to as the stiffness and sharp pain arising from the neck to the shoulders. This is a common complaint these days as we are hunched over our backs with our eyes fix on our laptops for long hours every day. Whether it is work from home or normal office hours, our posture remains the same which aggravates upper back pain. With regular upper back pain exercises, stretching and posture correction, the muscle tension, and stiffness can be relieved and provide long-term pain management solutions. 

Upper back pain exercise that can help you combat discomfort

Child Pose

This is a popular pose in yoga and is a great exercise to help relieve tension in the upper and lower back. To perform the child’s pose, you first need to be on all fours, or what’s commonly called the table pose. Bring the toes together and then slowly proceed to lower your hips while placing the buttocks on the back of the feet.

Try to rest your forehead down on the floor as you put your chest down to touch your thighs. Relax your entire body and try to extend your shoulders as much as you can while your palm touches the floor. If extending your arms and shoulders are causing you discomfort, then you can try placing them and stretching them backward as well with your palms facing upwards.

This is a great stretch for the entire back and can be done post-workout or in between office hours as a good stretch to prevent any muscle stiffness or tension. 

Cat-cow Pose

Another great upper back pain exercise that is also a highly recommended yoga pose, this provides a whole stretch for your back just like the child’s pose. Beginning on the table’s pose, make sure that your hands are underneath the shoulders with the knees placed directly under the hips.

Perform the Cat’s pose by slowly pushing down your shoulder while arching your back upwards and dropping the head to the chest. Remain in this position for a few seconds and then release. Then comes the cow pose where you return to your fours but try to push the lower back towards the floor as you move your head back so you can let your chin and nose point upward. Remain in this position for a while and then release.

For a great stretch, repeat this exercise several times, along with the child’s pose in the morning or between work hours to prevent stiffness and muscle tension. 

Doorway Stretch

The great thing about upper back pain exercises is that you can perform them anywhere- at work or at home. For example, this stretch can be done by using your doorway or wall for support! Stand with the right side of your body facing the doorway and then bend the elbow of your right hand while placing the forearm against the wall or door.

The elbow needs to make a right angle so make sure that your upper arm remains completely straight and firm. Take the right foot forward, twist to the left, and ensure that the shoulder and upper back are getting a good stretch. Remain in this position for a while and repeat on the other side.

This is a great stretch for people who play sports or are involved in intensive physical activities due to their hobbies or occupation. It provides a good stretch in the upper back region and releases tension, especially in the shoulder and neck region. 

Knee Rotation

To enhance mobility and restore normal function in your upper back, it is imperative that you exercise the entire length of your back. This knee rotation is great for a full back tension relieving exercise that will work towards reducing stiffness and tension in the upper back.

To perform this, you need to lie on your back keeping your knees bent and your feet flat. Alternatively, rotate the knees to the right and left keeping them bent and holding the position for a few seconds. Make sure you repeat equally on both sides for a great full-back stretch. 

Also Read: Thoracic Back Pain – Causes, Symptoms and Physiotherapy Treatment

Snake Pose

Yoga is a great exercise to consider for holistic treatment of your upper and lower back pain. There are numerous yoga poses that target your upper back and help relieve tension and stiffness in the long run and the snake pose or more commonly the ‘bhujang’ pose is a great upper back pain exercise that targets all the muscles in the shoulder and the neck providing short-term pain relief.

To perform this pose, you need to lie on your back with your hands placed directly under your shoulder. Next, take a deep breath in and try to raise your upper body into your elbows but make sure your forearms and hips are relaxed on the ground.

Hold this position for a few seconds and then breathe out as you return to the floor. Repeat at least 6-7 times and gradually increase your hold time as you get more comfortable with the exercise. 

Alternate Leg and Arm Rais

Another full-length back exercise, will target all the stiff muscles in the shoulder, neck, and mid-back region and give it the stretch and tension release it needs. This is also a great exercise for your core as it helps build core strength which is an important requirement to keep your back healthy.

Start on your fours, and make sure to keep your spine straight with hands placed directly under the shoulder. Align the knees with the hips. Extend the right arm and simultaneously extend the left and make sure to keep them straight and level while keeping the core tight. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.

To make it more fun, you can also place a small light object on your lower back and make sure it remains in the same position through the exercise. 


Another great back and core strengthening exercise is great for a whole-body stretch and especially targets muscles in the upper and mid-back. To start off, lay on your stomach with your arms extended forward. Keeping your head and neck neutral, lift your legs and make sure you are lifting them using your back and glutes and not otherwise.

Hold this position for 20 seconds and then relax. While performing this exercise, you need to keep your core stable and taut. Gradually increase the intensity by increasing hold positions to 30, 45, and 60 seconds. 

Room Corner Stretch

Another great upper back pain exercise without equipment is this corner stretch. You can perform them while you are taking a short break from work, or as a great pre-workout exercise. Place yourself with your body facing against the wall about 2 feet from the corner of your room.

While placing the forearm on each wall, make sure that your elbows are slightly under the shoulder. Lean forward, like performing a wall push-up by keeping your lower back neutral. Hold this till you feel a good stretch across the chest and the shoulder, about 30-60 seconds depending upon your comfort. This is a great exercise to perform to help keep upper back pain at bay! 

For more exercises for upper back pain relief, and expert consultation, head on to Phyt Health for AI-predicted and 3D image analysis for pain relief and treatment plans designed for your goals!