Our upper backs and shoulders take a lot more abuse than you might think, especially if you work at a desk all day. Repetitive activities and poor posture can easily lead to pain in the upper back and around the shoulder blade.
Having pain in either or both of these areas isn’t uncommon for Americans. Medical research reports that up to 47% of U.S. adults have a shoulder disorder every year, and at any given time, up to 72% of Americans are feeling upper back pain. Working with a physical therapist can be an effective way to treat pain in the upper back and shoulder blade area. One option that’s often used in such treatment plans is therapeutic exercises like:
- Forward reach stretch
In many cases, pain in the upper back and around the shoulder blades is caused by muscle tightness. Physical therapists can help you stretch out muscles in this area with the forward reach stretch.
How to perform the forward reach stretch
- Get into the starting position by standing or sitting up straight and raising your arms to shoulder height.
- Clasp your hands in front of you, and drop your chin toward your chest.
- Slowly reach straight forward so that your upper back is rounded and your shoulder blades move apart.
- Hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and rest for a few seconds. Then, repeat the stretch until you’ve done three to five repetitions.
- Chest “T” stretch
Tight chest muscles could also be pulling your upper back and shoulder blades out of alignment, which can lead to pain. Your physical therapist can recommend several stretches to target tight chest muscles, but a commonly used one is the chest “T” stretch.
How to perform the chest “T” stretch
- Start by lying down flat on your back on the floor or a mattress.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the surface so that they’re hip width apart.
- Relax your shoulders and tuck your chin.
- Slowly lower your arms out to the sides so that they form a T. You should feel a mild stretch in your shoulders and chest. If you don’t, you may need to roll up a blanket or towel and place it along your spine from your head to your tailbone.
- Hold this position for at least 30 seconds.
- Take a short break and then repeat this stretch until you’ve done it for one to two minutes in total. Your goal should be to comfortably relax in this stretch for at least two minutes at a time.
Find more help with upper back and shoulder blade pain at Armor PT
Not sure where to turn for more help with your upper back and shoulder blade pain? Our Armor Physical Therapy team is ready and willing to help you address your pain. We can perform a free screening to pinpoint the underlying cause(s) of your pain. Also, our specialists are adept at constructing unique physical therapy plans that include therapeutic exercises and techniques like:
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM)
- Myofascial release
- Neuromuscular reeducation
- Virtual therapy
- At-home care
Contact us today for more information about the therapy services we offer for back and shoulder pain or to schedule an initial appointment.