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3 Back Stretches for Your Upper Back

Back stretches can relieve the most common cause of back pain, which is tight, tense muscles. Back stretches for the upper back can also improve posture and increase energy levels. They can even decrease neck and jaw pain and relieve tension headaches. Here are some simple stretches for your upper back.

1) Eagle Arms

This upper back stretch comes from yoga. You'll perform it while seated in a chair.

  • Sit upright with your head held erect above your shoulders. Your feet should be no further apart than the width of your hips, and should be flat on the floor directly below your knees. If your feet don't rest flat on the floor, place a folded towel or blanket under them.
  • Extend your arms in front of you.
  • Cross your left bicep over your right bicep.
  • Bend your elbows so that your right forearm catches your left elbow.
  • Twist your right forearm around your left forearm and grab the palm of your left hand with the fingers of your right hand. If you can't reach that far, grasp your left thumb instead.
  • Breathe into your upper back for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

2) Neck Rolls

Neck rolls release tension from the neck, jaw, head and shoulders. If performed daily, neck rolls can largely relieve the symptoms of upper back tension, including pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, jaw pain and tension headaches. You can perform this stretching exercise while seated upright in a chair.

  • Sit upright in a chair with your head held erect.
  • Place your palms on your thighs; relax your shoulders and arms.
  • Drop your head gently forward, but keep the rest of your spine straight.
  • Inhale deeply as you roll your head to the left; your left ear should travel toward your left shoulder. Keep both shoulders and arms relaxed. Move slowly and follow your breath. Once your ear is above your shoulder, you can take a few deep breaths.
  • Exhale as you return your head to the center position; move slowly and with the breath.
  • Inhale as you roll your head to the other side, keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed and paying attention to the breath.
  • Repeat this exercise five to ten times.

3) Butterfly Wings

This stretch affects your upper back in much the same way that the cat stretch affects your lower and middle back. You'll perform this stretch while seated in a chair.

  • Sit upright in a chair with your head held erect. Place your hands in your lap and rest your feet on the floor.
  • Bring your hands together in front of your breastbone, as if you were praying. Inhale deeply into your chest.
  • When you exhale, extend your hands, palms together, in front of you. Drop your head, relax your shoulders and around your upper back.
  • When you inhale, sweep your arms back as if you were about to perform a swam dive. Lift your face toward the ceiling and arch your upper back.
  • On your next exhale, straighten your spine and return your hands to the prayer position.
  • Repeat this stretch five to ten times.

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