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Three Back Stretches for Your Upper Back


Back pain can be debilitating, especially when you're trying to be physically active to reduce chronic disease risks, maintain a healthy weight, or perform well for a physically demanding job at work. MedlinePlus notes that back pain is a common medical problem, and 8 out of 10 people experience back pain at some point in their lives. The University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine reports that performing back stretches to improve posture may help relieve or prevent back pain.

The Shoulder Blade Squeeze

You can perform the shoulder blade squeeze from a standing or sitting position. This simple upper back stretch can be completed from just about any location, even at work.

  1. Begin by standing or sitting in an upright position, with your back straight and your arms down at your side or your elbow bent.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other as far as possible until you feel a slight stretch.
  3. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds.
  4. Release your shoulder blades back to your starting position, and repeat the stretch at least two more times.

Sitting Side Bends

A side bend upper back stretch is easiest when completed from a sitting position, but can be performed while standing as well.

  1. Begin by sitting in an upright position, or standing up straight.
  2. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows bent.
  3. Avoid leaning forward to backward.
  4. Slowly bend to your right side by moving your right elbow toward your right hip until you feel a slight stretch in your upper back.
  5. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds.
  6. Keeping your hands behind your head, slowly move your body back to your upright starting position.
  7. Slowly bend to your left side by moving your left elbow toward your left hip until you feel a slight stretch in your upper back.
  8. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds.
  9. Repeat this stretch at least two more times on each side.

Exercise Ball Back Stretch

The exercise ball back stretch requires you to use a large-sized exercise or yoga ball.

  1. Sit on the exercise ball.
  2. Slowly roll your body forward using your legs until your back is directly on top of the ball.
  3. Allow your back to form to the shape of the ball in a bridge-like position.
  4. Let the exercise ball assist you with this upper back stretch, so you can breathe slowly and fully relax.
  5. Allow your arms to hang to the side or overhead.
  6. Hold this bridge-like upper back stretch on top of the ball for about 30 seconds and repeat.


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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as and

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