Is the middle of your upper back, between the shoulder blades giving you hell? You know, that niggly spot that feels sore but so good when someone presses or massages that spot.It feels like that spot needs to crack or straighten but nothing seems to give you any lasting relief. You bend backwards over couches, chairs and tables in the hope that something will pop or release so you can rid this uncomfortable feeling.I know exactly how you feel, I’ve been there a lot. The good news is that I now know the causes of this seemingly small, yet annoying and uncomfortable upper back tightness. How to treat it and tips for preventing it happening over and over again. One of the primary causes of pain in the upper back is thoracic kyphosis, also known as a rounded upper back.Kyphosis occurs when there is excessive forward curvature of the spine, and eventually will cause a hump-like appearance in the upper back or base of neck.
Causes and Treatment
Some of the generally known and accepted causes of kyphosis include:
- degenerative changes
- compression fractures
- muscular weakness
- altered biomechanics
However, the main causes of kyphosis are poor posture and inefficient movement patterns.This leads to muscle imbalances that escalates the problem further.Having bad posture and skeletal alignment even for short lengths of time throughout the day cause negative changes to your central nervous system.Muscle resting lengths get messed up, some muscles remain in a partially contracted shortened state and others become overly stretched and weak.If the muscle length is not corrected the connective tissue around the muscle becomes hard and traps the muscle permanently in place. Overtime the forward flexion can cause bulging and subluxation of the vertebrae.The more spend time in a flexed (bent) position, your head will begin to retain a forward position. This causes increased stress and weight on the spine and neck.The head should be directly over the body, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your ears.By practicing proper posture and engaging in exercises to strengthen the back and neck, you can lighten the load. This will give your spine a break.
Why Is Exercise Important?
Exercise, combined with good posture and chiropractic care, may help improve your rounded upper back.Researchers looked at the effect of spinal extension exercises on kyphosis. They found that strong back muscles are better able to counteract the forward pull on the spine. That means exercises that strengthen the extensor muscles can decrease the angle of kyphosis.
Exercises to Prevent and Improve
I recommend these five exercises to help prevent or improve a rounded upper back. Consistency is key and these should be repeated a minimum of three to four times per week to see results over time.Always consult a doctor before starting an exercise routine and be sure to listen to your body. If an exercise or stretch is causing increased pain, stop and seek help.
1. Mirror Image
For this exercise, simply do the opposite movement of the posture that you are trying to correct.
- Stand tall, against a wall if needed.
- Bend the knees slightly
- Tuck your chin slightly and bring your head back directly over your shoulders.
- Imagine a small lead weight is attached to your tailbone, hanging between your legs allowing you to sense gravity and where you centre of mass is
- Gently tuck the hips in so the tailbone points straight down.
- Feel as if you are bringing your shoulder blades back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute. Take a break if you begin to feel pain.
2. Head Retraction
This exercise is done lying on the floor and is great for the muscles of the neck that are often stretched out and weak.
- Pull your chin back toward the floor, as if you are trying to make a double chin.
- Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat five to 10 times.
- Lying on your stomach, extend your hands in front of your head.
- Keeping your head in a neutral position, looking towards the floor, lift your arms, and legs up towards the ceiling.
- Feel as if you are reaching far away from your body with your hands and feet. Hold for three seconds and repeat 10 times.
4. Life Extension
The goal of this exercise is to stretch the tight muscles of the chest and strengthen the weak muscles of the back.
- Begin standing tall, knees soft, core engaged, chest upright, and shoulder blades back and down.
- Once you find yourself in an ideal posture, raise your arms up into a Y position with your thumbs pointed behind you.
- In this position, take two to three deep breaths, focusing on maintaining this posture on exhale.
5. Thoracic Spine Foam Rolling
- Lie on the floor with a foam roller under you, across your mid back.
- Gently roll up and down on the foam roller, massaging the muscles of the back and thoracic spine.
By making small changes to take care of your posture today and prevent kyphosis, you can reap the health benefits for years to come. So take a break from your phone, practice good posture, and work toward a greater quality of life.