Top 3 Exercises For Your Upper Back Pain

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Upper Back Pain: Top 3 Exercises for Your Upper Back pain- Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Do you have upper back pain ?


Is your pain about the size of a golf ball on one side of your upper back? Then you need to do these exercises so you can feel better.


What’s the cause of your upper back pain?  Many web sites say things like:


  • Rhomboid Muscle Trigger Point
  • Levator Scapula Muscle Trigger Point
  • Rib Subluxation (Rib Out of Place)


While these may be the cause of your upper back pain, for most people upper back pain comes from the neck. Holding your  chin up and out leads to the trigger points and rib subluxations leading to upper back pain, like the picture below.


See Also: 3 Exercises For Your Neck Pain

Upper Back Pain:The Green Circle Shows The Typical Area Of Upper Back Pain Near The Shoulder Blade Causing Shoulder Blade Pain- Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

What I am saying is that your posture is the cause, and the pain in the upper back is the symptom.  When you bring your chin up and out your neck comes forward.


For every inch / 2cm that you bring your neck forward the weight that your neck has to hold up doubles. Your head is about 12 lb/5kg so when you bring your head forwards by one inch/ 2cm your neck has to hold up the equivalent of 24lb/10 kg.


Most people bring their head forwards 3 inches/6.6 cm  or more. So you are holding up the equivalent of 36lb/15kg. Now that’s a heavy head!


Your heavy head is held up by the muscles at the back of your neck and the upper back. With enough pressure the ribs go out of place, and causes muscle trigger points like the rhomboid muscle and levator scapula. It even puts more pressure on your discs and ligaments. With enough time the ligaments get stretched out the discs start to bulge and you get a muscle imbalance.


See Also: Neck Pain-The Best Exercises For Your Stiff Neck


I see most people when they are 25 years or older but the problem is getting more acute. I have seen 10 years old that play with  ipads  with bad posture triggering upper back pain.


Exercises For Your upper back pain.


Stretch Your Trapezius Muscle

Headache Pain Exercise #5 Trapezius Stretch

  • Turn 45 degree to one side.
  • Bend your neck sideways.
  • Put your hand on your head and let the weight of your arm pull your head down.
  • Let the opposite shoulder relax and drop. If you don’t feel a stretch bring your shoulder down by holding onto a eg. table.
  • Do 3 sets for 30 seconds several times a day.


Stretch You Levator Scapula


  • Do the trapezius stretch.
  • Turn your head in the opposite direction till you are halfway in the opposite direction with some forward flexion.
  • You should feel it on the same side you felt the trapezius stretch.
  • Do 3 sets for 30 seconds on both sides several times a day.


Stretch The Muscles At the side and Front Of Your Neck

Upper Back Pain -Stretches For Front Of Your Neck to Fix The Upper Back Pain - Toronto Downtown ChiropractorUpper Back Pain: Stretches For Front Of Your Neck to Fix The Upper Back Pain - Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

  • Put both hands on your chest just below the collar bone, pushing down.
  • Extend your neck backwards and to opposite the side.
  • Do 3 sets for 30 seconds on both sides


Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.


Dr Ken Nakamura

26 Responses to Top 3 Exercises For Your Upper Back Pain
  • Pat says:
    December 4, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Hi there,

    I am having pain in a similar area however, the pain occasionally wraps around my head and gives me severe headaches. Additionally, I think it has created a muscle imbalance on the entire right side of my body. I am right handed and sit at a desk all day and can feel that my left side is stronger when perforMing exercises in the gym. I am a 26 year old active male who plays soccer and lifts weights 4-5 times a week. I’m also left footed and think this may have contributed to the muscle imbalance. I have been consciously trying to work on my posture recently and don’t find it to be helping. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      December 6, 2017 at 8:18 am

      Thanks for your question Pat. I would simply do the exercises here in this article. By doing the exercises you should be able to decrease the pressure on your neck and thus the pressure on the nerve that is causing you to have the headaches. The above is an opinion.

      If you have any more questions for this chiropractor I will do my best to give you a good answer.

  • Nwanne says:
    October 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    I have been having Back pains for years now. what should I do.

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      October 12, 2017 at 8:48 pm

      You should give me a lot more detail so I can determine if I can give you a proper opinion. As you can imagine a car with something wrong. If you say to the mechanic the engine doesn’t work. The mechanic cannot fix it based on that information alone. They usually look at it, do tests etc…

      You need to make a detailed account of what ails your back, where it is, how long you’ve had the problem, what aggravates the problem, what makes it better. Make a list of all the positions that are worse, what you can’t do or have a hard time doing. That’s just a start.

      I hope that gives you an idea of what you need to say so, to allow me to give you a good opinion. Without good information, I can’t give you a good opinion. Hope that makes sense. Remember that I can’t examine you or take a detailed history. You are trying to give as much of the history of your condition as possible.

  • rakhshinda akhtar says:
    September 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Hey there. I got into accident which caused pain in my upper back n neck n kind of vertebral column. What should I do

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      September 12, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks for your question Rakshinda. First, if the accident happened in the past week and it is severe exercises will make you worse. If your neck is not severe you should try to move your neck to the maximum in every direction rotation, side bending, forward bending and extension. The goal is to get a full range of motion with a little bit of pain. If the pain is sharp then you are going too hard. With any accident of significance, you should see your health care practitioner like a chiropractor who can help you with the specific exercises and therapies that you need. You will not likely get better with just exercises after a car accident if severe enough. A light accident with minor injuries yes, you can get better with exercises.

      Hope that helps your neck and upper back pain. If you any more questions for the chiropractor from downtown Toronto I will do my best to give you a good answer. The above is an opinion and not a recommendation.

  • Candice Hobbs says:
    March 5, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Dr. Ken,
    I have had upper back pain in my right shoulder blade muscle for months, mainly when I rest/sleep. I sit all day at work, have had no injuries, healthy. Do you have any suggestions as far as stretches to alleviate the pain?

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      March 6, 2017 at 8:58 am

      Thanks for your question Candice. For your upper back, try the exercises here but these exercises are also needed.
      Just watch out for the second exercise for cervical disc herniations as it may make you worse. Please keep in mind any exercises can make you worse. If it does stop right away. You know you are getting worse if the pain or other symptoms start going down your arm or further down your back. This is an opinion and not a recommendation.

      Hope that helps your upper back pain. If you have any more questions for the this downtown Toronto chiropractor I will do my best to answer your questions.

  • Camille J. Brown says:
    January 7, 2017 at 4:28 am

    What a helpful article! I initially struggled with neck pain, but that has since migrated to my upper back. I never realized that the two were most likely related. I will try your exercises. Thanks so much!

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      January 8, 2017 at 2:13 am

      Thanks for your comment Camille. The neck and upper back are connected so when the upper back is worked on, it certainly helps the neck. Looks like you have a lot of good chiropractors that can help you out as well.

      Hope that helps your neck.

  • Alan says:
    December 4, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Hello, Dr. Ken,

    Dealing with a pinched nerve in my neck and SO glad I found your site. If I lived near you I’d be getting an appointment ASAP. In the meantime I really appreciate your site in general and the exercises especially. Thank you very much.

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      December 6, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Thanks for your comment Alan. Glad I can help.

  • Jill says:
    September 18, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    could this be caused by poor posture from large, aging, natural breasts?

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      September 20, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks for your question Jill. The quick answer is yes. Having said that, most people have poor posture while sitting down. So increasing the strength in your upper back and stretching your pec muscles will help in addition to these exercises here.
      This is an opinion, not a recommendation.

      Hope that helps your upper back.

  • Joanne says:
    March 13, 2016 at 4:46 am

    Wow, these are fantastic , Thankyou, I am looking to help my partner with something that seems to be a dislocated rib, so tried them out first and they are brilliant. I will get him to try them now, Thankyou

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      March 15, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Good luck helping your partner. Hope that helps his/her upper back pain.

  • faisal says:
    July 13, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Dr. Ken, i am from Pakistan and was facing same problem from past one week and thank you soo much now i am feeling good.

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      July 13, 2015 at 8:29 am

      You are welcome Faisal. Glad your upper back pain is better.

  • Enos Dogbey says:
    June 27, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I have the same problem. antibiotics gives me some relief

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      June 28, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Thanks for your comment Enos. If antibiotics gave you relief than there likely was an infection in your lung or somewhere near the spine. Infections in the spine do occur but the lung is much more common.

  • Renato Arruda do Couto says:
    June 3, 2015 at 5:18 am

    I just turnned 25 and this thing appear, hell… Anyway this article saved me! Thanks! By the way, lifting wheights can cause this trigger too?

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      June 3, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Thanks for your question and comment Renato. Yes absolutely, weights can trigger your pain. Start slow and with not a lot of weight.

      Hope that helps your upper back pain.

  • Larry Head says:
    May 23, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    I have been in constant pain the last two days. I couldn’t sleep through the night and breathing was difficult without a lot of pain. i found your exercises and got some significant relief. Thanks so much.

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      May 24, 2015 at 8:15 am

      Thanks for your comment Larry. Glad they were helpful for your upper back pain.

  • Alison sherlock says:
    January 27, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I think you’ve cured my horrific and painful upper left back!! Just started today and already noticed some relief! Thank you so much! I am in delta, BC ! Can you please send me any other exercises that you have! Thank you so much Dr Nakamura

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      January 27, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Getting results on the first day is terrific Alison. I’m very happy that I can now help people not only at our downtown Toronto clinic but people from all over Canada. Here is a link to 5 more exercises that you might find useful.

      You will notice that the title for the article say that they are for a “stiff neck”. Well these are very appropriate in your case as the neck muscles span 3-8 vertebrae. This means that the neck muscles and joints affect the upper back and vice versa.

      Let me know how you progress with your upper back pain.

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