Most spine-related aches and pains are related to problems within the lower back or neck. Therefore, these areas naturally get the most attention. However, less common upper and middle back pain can be just as distracting and frustrating, especially if it keeps coming back. One way you may be able to ease this type of discomfort is by strengthening muscles and soft tissues within these areas. Here are five exercises designed with this purpose in mind. If the problem gets worse or you have sudden, severe pain while performing these exercises, stop and consult your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon.

1. Cobra Pose

This common yoga pose targets the large back muscles (extensor muscles) that help you stand, rotate, and maintain good posture. Effectively target these muscles that support your upper and middle back by:

• Resting your stomach on the floor
• Using your hands to push your upper body up
• Straightening your elbows slowly as you lift your upper body from the floor
• Keeping your lower body relaxed as you hold the position for a few seconds before repeating about 10 times

Note: If the traditional pose is too painful or difficult, opt for a modified version of the cobra pose in which you rest on your forearms.

2. Advanced Back Extensions

This exercise zeros in on the upper back muscles. Once again, you’ll start by resting on your stomach. After you place a pillow under your hips for added support, complete this exercise by:

• Clasping your hands together behind your back
• Lifting your head and chest up from the floor
• Holding your position for 3–5 seconds as you look at the floor

Suggestion: Gradually work your way to holding for 15–20 seconds at a time. Shoot for 8–10 reps, but stop if you feel any increased discomfort in your upper or middle back area.

3. Cat-Cow Pose

Another common yoga pose, the cat-cow pose gently targets the middle back muscles. Start on your hands and knees. After placing your arms below your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips, line up your head with your torso and spine and do this exercise by:

• Rounding your spine and arching it upward
• Keeping your head down as you look at your stomach and hold the pose as you breathe deeply
• Lifting your chest and coccyx (tailbone) upward as you relax your stomach and let it ease downward while you look upward
• Taking a deep breath and lifting your spine back up again

4. Opposite Arm and Leg Raises

Also known as the bird-dog pose, opposite arm/leg raises are designed to boost abdominal and back muscle strength. When these muscles are strong, your upper and middle back areas also benefit from the added support. After getting on your hands and knees and keeping your backbone straight, perform this exercise by:

• Placing your hands below your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips
• Extending one arm forward as you extend the opposite leg backward
• Holding the pose for a few seconds as you take deep breaths
• Lowering your arm and leg and repeating with your other limbs

5. Corner Stretches

Poor posture is a common contributing factor to upper back pain. Corner stretches strengthen the chest muscles that play a role in encouraging correct posture. Get started with this exercise by finding a corner in a room or a doorway. You’ll then complete the stretch by:

• Placing your forearms against both parts of the corner wall or doorjamb
• Keeping your elbows slightly below shoulder level
• Leaning forward until you feel the stretch just below your collarbone in your upper chest

Before you try any of these exercises for upper and middle back pain, check with your doctor first. You don’t want to do anything that could aggravate or worsen any structural problems such as a herniated disc or slipped vertebra that could be contributing to your discomfort. For example, you may have a compression fracture that can be relieved by a minimally invasive surgical decompression procedure, such as a kyphoplasty procedure. Santa Monica residents should see a spine specialist about any recurring instances of back pain. If you’re given the okay to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine, remember to stretch first to warm up the muscle groups you’ll be targeting.

If you’re experiencing sudden, severe, or chronic pain in any area of your back or neck, reach out to the industry-leading spinal health experts at The Spine Institute for diagnosis and treatment. To schedule an appointment, give one of our friendly representatives a call at 310-828-7757 today.