Before anything else, it is important to screen whether your upper back pain is of serious origin or not. The main signs and symptoms to look out for are constant pain that is severe upper back pain and progressive, no relief from bed rest or postural modification, history of trauma, or history of cancer. To be certain, it is always best to get it checked by a physical therapist, like an osteopath.
In most cases where your upper back pain is mechanical, meaning the main symptoms of muscular ache, feeling of restriction, and tightness matches with the risk factors described above, then the best medicine is to begin moving the thoracic spine! Here are a couple effective exercises for upper back pain:
Thread the needle: Place one hand on a wall and flex forward from your hips with your back straight. With the other arm (the “needle”) thread through the “hole” you created. Be mindful of what you’re trying to mobilise as you do this movement which is the upper back (thoracic spine).
Cat-dog: Start on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulder and knees underneath your hips. Begin hunching your mid-back (creating a cat-like position) as high as you can. As you breathe out, sink your mid-back towards the floor. Again, be mindful of what you’re trying to achieve because it will be much more effective with the mind-joint connection.
On top of moving the thoracic spine which addresses the biological side of things, it’s also important to address the risk factors as previously mentioned. For example:
- Take regular breaks during work, especially if it’s sedentary. This also means active rest, which means to move and stretch appropriately.
- Manage your stress through breathing exercises, yoga, cardiovascular exercise, meditation, etc.
- To reduce usage of one-sided bags or excessive backpack wearing times. If not possible, increasing your capacity to adapt by strengthening your back muscles and taking regular breaks is essential.
Osteopaths are able to look after your body by finding out the cause of your upper back pain and kick-start your recovery. They do this by:
- Mobilising the tissues that have become tight and restricted with their hands.
- Acknowledging and tackling your barriers to recovery, from the psychological and social factors.
- Implementing appropriate and tailor-made exercises for your recovery.
Always remember that “Stillness is Illness”, in other words, “Motion is Lotion”!