Move Your Mid Back Pain Away

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Do you ever feel a dull, tight, achy, stiff pain between your shoulder blades in your mid back that just seems impossible to stretch out? Good news! It is not impossible. You may just not be stretching the correct area. When I have patients experiencing mid back pain or discomfort, they seem to have tried every shoulder or neck stretch they can think of or google, with no relief. These patients typically sit at a desk or computer for long periods of time. However, standing for a prolonged time, repetitive overhead activity or general poor posture can also cause pain.

Your spine consists of 33 vertebrae, all stacked one on top of the other and all effecting the other. neck and low back areas of the spine are designed to be more mobile, which is why pain and injury is more common in those areas. The thoracic vertebrae are the stabilizing connectors between the two. It also anchors your rib cage, which has to be sturdy enough to protect all your vitals organs.

The tightness that you feel occurs because your thoracic spine can actually be “too good” at stabilizing and becomes hypomobile (decreased movement). Joints like to move, so when they are maintained in the same position for a long time, they get stiff and achy. Therefore, when you sit in a slumped position (see picture below) you are asking your thoracic spine to hold you up when you should be relying on your abdominal and back muscles to help. To counteract the added stress and load placed on the vertebrae, you have to get those vertebrae moving!

See the source image

Here are my favorite exercises to increase thoracic movement and decrease mid back pain!

1. Thread The Needle
  • Start on your hands and knees with neutral spine
  • On an inhale, take your right hand and reach up towards the ceiling without moving your hips and keeping your left arm straight
  • On your exhale, reach your arm across your chest as if you were going to rest your right shoulder on the ground. Again, try to keep your hips still.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side, following your breath

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2. Cat/Cow
  • Start on your hands and knees with neutral spine
  • On an inhale, open your chest by sending your heart toward the ceiling and your letting your gaze follow
  • On an exhale, pull your belly button in towards your spine rounding out your back and head
  • Repeat 10 times, following your breath

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3. Modified Downward Dog
  • Start with your hands on the back of a chair or counter top in front of you and your legs slightly wider than hip width apart and at a level that is behind your trunk as you stand
  • Slightly bend your knees as you sink your hips back and let your arms extend in front of you; let your head and chest fall towards the ground
  • Straighten your knees as much as you can, being careful to stop if you begin to round your back
  • Repeat 10 times, holding the stretch for 10 seconds

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4. Open Book
  • Start out laying on your side with your knees bent (fetal position)
  • Slowly twist open through your upper body so your top shoulder is on the table
  • Repeat 10 times, holding for 10 seconds on each side

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5. Puppy Pose
  • Start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine
  • Gently walk your hands  out in front of you to allow your chest and forehead to sink to the floor
  • Try to keep your hips over your knees
  • Repeat 10 times, holding for 5 seconds

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Hopefully you find these exercises helpful, however, if pain persists please schedule an appointment with your Primary Care Physician. If you enjoyed these exercises and want to learn more or have a skilled physical therapist evaluate and design a specific treatment program for you feel free to contact Atlantic Physical Therapy  via phone 215-271-4100 or email [email protected].