Let’s face it: how the human body is designed isn’t always compatible with how most people habitually use it as part of the so-called modern lifestyle. These poor practices are precisely why nearly everyone suffers from upper back pain at one point or another.
Fortunately, upper back discomfort isn’t as severe as pain in your lower back since it isn’t related to joint or disc problems. Inflammation of the muscles and connective tissues in the upper back, spine, and shoulders are the leading causes of upper back pain. Also, your muscles succumb to stress with overuse and poor posture, resulting in myofascial strain.
The remedy for upper back pain doesn’t need to be complicated nor expensive. All you need is the willingness to commit to a lifestyle change plus simple upper back stretches to add to your workout routine.
Lifestyle Changes to Ease Upper Back Pain
What you do, especially when you’re just at home or not working, makes a huge difference. These lifestyle changes will help a lot in relieving upper back pain:
Perform a Workspace Makeover
According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), two in every three office workers experience physical pain, including shoulder aches and upper and lower back pain. The part that’s concerning is, one in every four of these workers believes that they are a part of having an office job. This misconception causes office workers to neglect or undertreat said pain until it interferes with their ability to perform their duties.
To keep yourself from having to endure any of the three, the AOA recommends that you do the following:
- Position the computer screen so that the top is slightly angled up and at the same level as your eyes.
- Sit at least a foot and a half away from your computer.
- Place your elbows at your sides and keep your forearms parallel to the floor to avoid shoulder scrunching.
- Listen on a hands-free device when doing lengthy or multiple conference calls. Pinning your phone between your head and shoulder will cause your shoulder muscles to tighten.
Develop Healthy Habits When Sleeping
When sleeping, you should maintain a neutral spine alignment to avoid sleeping positions that may stress your joints and surrounding muscle groups. This neutral alignment is ideal since it allows for the three gentle curves you have in your spine.
For side sleepers, keep in mind that your spine must stay in a straight horizontal position throughout your sleep. Finally, pay attention to your sleep essentials. If your mattress is already letting your hips to sag or your pillow jacks your head up, it’s time to get yourself a new one.
Work on Managing Stress
Managing your stress and anxiety is essential to reduce muscle tension and pain effectively. Engaging in deep breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, and gentle yoga practices aids in relieving stress and promote increased body awareness to prevent dysfunctional postural and muscular routines.
Pampering yourself is also an excellent way to relieve upper back pain, specifically massages. Whether you use a foam roller or hire the services of a professional, massages help ease pain in the connective tissue that wraps around every muscle. Myofascial release through specific treatments that include acupuncture and acupressure also help a great deal in relieving pain.
Establish an Exercise Routine
Establishing an exercise routine helps maintain flexibility and the proper strength of your upper back. Specific programs, such as Pilates, shore up your core strength, stabilize your muscles, and build up the scapular, which can help prevent upper back pain.
Upper Back Stretches You Can Do at Your Desk
Speaking of an exercise routine, here are basic upper back stretches you can perform just about anywhere you find yourself seated. Make it a point to incorporate them into your routine, especially if you sit for prolonged periods while at work.
Indeed, it doesn’t take much to avoid potential back issues. Stretching your arms and upper back muscles, including the rhomboid and traps, should be easy enough to do at your desk and become part of your daily work regimen.
- To begin, sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and place your hands on your lap. Lean your right ear over your right shoulder with caution.
- Slowly lower your chin and allow it to fall toward your chest, holding your back straight.
- Raise your head until your left ear is directly above your left shoulder. Roll your head back and around to your right shoulder again.
- Even out your breathing and keep it steady and smooth. Repeat 5 to 10 times in each direction.
This stretch complements neck rolls well and helps strengthen your rhomboid and pectoral muscles.
- Sit up straight and place your fingertips on your shoulders, with your elbows out to the side.
- Exhale while keeping your fingers in place. Then, slowly bring your elbows together in front of you until they get into contact.
- Breathe in and move your arms to their original location.
- Begin this exercise with a shoulder shrug. However, after raising your shoulders to your ears, move them back and forth in a circle.
- Repeat the same motion in the opposite direction. Perform five rolls toward the back and five rolls toward the front to complete the routine.
- Straighten your back and let your arms hang down at your sides with your feet flat on the ground.
- Inhale and hold your breath while raising your shoulders as high as you can, then squeeze them tight for about two seconds.
- Breathe out and allow your arms to drop back down. Perform 8 to 10 shrugs per sequence.
Think of this exercise as similar to pushups for your shoulders. To make it more challenging, consider adding lightweight dumbbells to the mix.
Back pain is pretty common in any workplace today. Fortunately, there are steps you may take to ease some of the pain and stress. Upper back exercises and lifestyle changes can help alleviate lingering upper back pain. However, always consult your doctor if the pain persists.