4 Upper Back Stretches to Relieve Tension and Pain

upper back stretches

Upper back stretches involve effectively extending the upper back to get rid of tension and tightness. The good news is that they are quite simple to perform. You can perform many of them right on the chair or at your desk in a couple of minutes.

While doing these stretches, it is essential to focus on progressing with the breath, meaning mildly extending the stretch upon exhaling and relaxing a bit upon inhaling. At the same time, you need to ensure that you do not perform any stretch forcefully. In other words, listen to your body. Otherwise, stretching aggressively can boost both tension and pain and even harm the muscles and ligaments.

Here are five simple stretches to relieve tension and pain in the upper back area:

1. Levator Scapulae stretch

This stretch is known to relieve neck tension and improve posture. A bad posture is often the cause of pain in the upper back, especially the neck, as bent shoulders and forward-slanting head put much pressure on this area. Following are the steps to perform the levator scapulae stretch:

  1. Sit comfortably on a chair.
  2. Ensure that you do not bend by taking your shoulders far from the ears such that the muscles of the back squeeze.
  3. Hold the chair’s bottom using your right hand.
  4. Move your chin towards the chest.
  5. Rotate your head a bit towards the left shoulder.
  6. Move your left hand towards the head and position it atop the skull such that the fingers gently grip around the head.
  7. Inhale deeply and while you release, pull your head down gently towards the armpit such that you feel pressure along the neck’s right side.
  8. Slowly release your head and restore the back to its normal position.
  9. Repeat the steps on another side.

Perform this stretch thrice on each side.

Levator Scapulae stretch
Image by www.h2tmuscleclinic.com

2. Upper Trapezius Stretch

As the name indicates, this stretch targets the trapezius, a big muscle in the shape of a trapezoid linked to the neck’s back and running across the shoulders until the lower back. It is becoming common to have pain and tension in this area.

It is also linked to the tightness that occurs by observing downwards towards a phone for a prolonged period. The upper trapezius stretch helps in reducing discomfort to the neck as well as this muscle.

You can perform this stretch easily while standing or sitting. Following are its steps:

  1. Move your head slowly towards the left shoulder such that the ear is as near as possible to the shoulder without any stress. The right shoulder may start raising itself but try as much as possible to retain them square.
  2. Raise the left arm over your head such that the palm comes on the right cheek.
  3. Let the hand rest on the cheekbone without putting any pressure on the neck and inhale into the diaphragm.
  4. Release the air. Only gravity should assist in this release instead of force.
  5. Keep breathing gradually for half a minute prior to lifting the hand and straightening the head.
  6. Repeat the steps with the right shoulder.
Upper Trapezius Stretch
Image by http://www.thomasmemoriallibrary.org/

3. Child’s Pose

This is a passive stretch that is known to relieve the tension on the shoulder and the back. It is regarded as one of the initial yoga resting poses. It is simply easy to do and is quite effective. While the former upper back stretches reduce pain indirectly, this one works by targeting the back portions that are susceptible to pressure. Following are the steps to perform the child’s pose:

  1. Kneel down on a mat such that the palms are on your thighs and knees are around hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale deep.
  3. Now, while exhaling, drop the torso with the belly on your thighs and hands outstretched in front.
  4. Get your hands to either body side while the palms are looking upward and the forehead relaxing on the mat.
  5. Breathe long into your diaphragm (take multiple breaths).
  6. Upon exhaling every time, unwind your back and neck such that the shoulders flux above the legs and to the ground.
childs pose

4. Seated Cat Cow Pose

Whether done on a floor or on a chair, the cat cow stretch is ideal for fortifying the spine. While the cow pose works by kindling the spine’s root and tailbone, the cat pose works by relieving the tension at the upper back and neck. Following are the steps to perform this stretch on a chair:

  1. Sit on the chair’s edge with hands on your knees and feet around hip-distance apart.
  2. Inhale and while doing so, look upward, raise both the chest and chin, enlarge across the chest, and haul the shoulders back.
  3. Exhale and while doing so, round via the spine, releasing via the neck.
  4. Repeat this procedure five times.
Seated Cat Cow Pose


These upper back stretches are ideal to alleviate pain and boost the flexibility of your upper back. Do not take them as one-time practice. Perform them at least twice a day!

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