Exercises to Reduce Upper Back Strain

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Upper back strain is a disorder that affects people nationwide. Upper back strain symptoms include pain that increases when moving, muscle cramps and a decreased range of motion in the back. Five different exercises are described to help reduce upper back strain and help strengthen the back muscles.

Thoracic Extension

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Thoracic extension is a stretch that helps loosen the upper back and stretch the spine. To perform this exercise, sit on a chair and grab both hands above your head. Gently arch your back and look towards the ceiling. Repeat this extension 10 to 20 times, at least three times a day.

Pectoralis Stretch (doorway stretch)

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The pectoralis stretch, otherwise known as the doorway stretch, is an exercise that both loosens and strengthens the back. To perform the pectoralis stretch, stand facing a corner or open door with your arms above your head and against the wall. Lean your entire body forward from the ankles, keeping the knees slightly bent, until a stretch is felt across the chest. Hold this position for 10 to 45 seconds. Repeat this action three to five times.

Scapular Squeezes

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Scapular squeezes help release tension in the back and help strengthen the shoulder muscles. To perform a scapular squeeze, sit or stand with your arms at your sides. Hold your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together for five to ten seconds. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions, two to three times a day.

Middle Trapezius Exercises (mid-trap)

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The Trapezius muscle helps one maintain good posture. To perform a mid-trap exercise, lie on your stomach on a solid surface and place a folded towel or other soft item under your chest. Place your arms at shoulder height with elbows bent. Raise your arms towards the ceiling as you perform a scapular squeeze. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions, two to three times a day.

Rowing Exercises

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Rowing exercises help build strength and stamina in the arms, legs and back. To perform the rowing exercise, tie a piece of elastic tubing or thera-band around a closed door handle or other immovable object. Grasp the ends of the tubes in both hands. Keeping your arms at your sides with your elbows bent, pull backward on the tubes and perform a scapular squeeze. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions, two to three times a day.


These five exercises should help anyone who is experiencing upper back pain or strain. When performed correctly, these exercises can build strength, loosen muscles and improve range of motion. If the exercises are not successful, seek advice from a health professional.