Stretch your upper-back and mid-back to increase flexibility and pain-free range of motion. Flexibility is a key component of health, fitness, functionality and sports performance. A flexible muscle allows controlled joint motion through a greater range. The upper-back and mid-back muscles become tight and restricted due to overuse, strength imbalances, poor posture, repetitive motions and static positioning. Consistent, correct static stretching will increase flexibility and provide better motion in the mid-back musculature.
The thoracic spine, or mid-back, contains 12 vertebra, and is located between the neck and lower back, and articulates with the rib cage. Muscles of the mid-back attach the thoracic spine vertebra to the vertebra of the neck and low-back, the posterior aspects of the ribs and the shoulder blades. These thick muscles contract to straighten the spine, move the rib cage and retract the shoulder blades.
Elongate and decrease the tension in your thoracic spine muscles by performing stretches on a daily basis. Your stretching routine should loosen up the entire body with an emphasis on your mid-back and upper-back. Quality mid-back stretching programs target these muscles at a variety of angles through various motions.
Stretching exercises should be performed every day. Never stretch a cold muscle and never stretch first thing in the morning. Move around to get the blood flowing throughout the musculoskeletal system before doing static stretching. Execute five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, such as riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical machine. Combine static stretches with a dynamic range of motion exercises for the best results. Increase motion and blood supply to the thoracic spine muscles by performing scapula retractions, arm circles, neck rolls, shoulder rolls, arm raises and rowing motions.
Ease into static stretches slowly, from the starting position move toward the stretched position in a slow, controlled manner. Never bounce or rush when stretching. Breathe comfortably and always increase your stretch during or immediately following exhalation. Bob Anderson, world-renowned stretching expert and author of the book, "Stretching," recommends inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth when stretching. Move into a comfortable stretch in your mid-back and upper-back and hold that position for 30 to 60 seconds. If a specific stretch elicits pain, numbness, tingling, burning or dizziness, forgo that movement and proceed to another stretch.
The most effective upper-back and mid-back stretches include pull-up bar hangs, kneeling cat back stretches, inverted row (or supine pull-up) stretch, flexion over a fitness ball and standing pole stretches. Pull-up bar hangs and fitness ball flexion provide traction to the spine and stretch the spinal extensor muscles. Inverted rows and standing pole stretches break up tightness in muscles that retract the scapulas, while the cat back stretch increases flexibility in the spine and rib cage musculature.