A limber back that is flexible and pain-free requires attention to keep it that way. Tightness or pain in your upper back can result from tight paraspinal muscles, the large muscles that run up and down your back along your spine and help hold your vertebrae in place. An imbalance in these muscles can pull your spine out of alignment, resulting in back pain and the inability to move your upper body through its full range of motion. Do stretches to help keep your spine in proper alignment.
Seated Paraspinal Stretch
This exercise is performed from a seated position, so it can be done while at your desk to relieve tension in your upper back muscles. Sit in a chair with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Cross your arms in front of your body with your elbows slightly bent and your forearms forming an “X” between your legs. Slowly bend your upper body forward, and lower your head toward your knees until you feel a stretch in your upper back. Hold this position for about 15 seconds and relax. Repeat.
Broom Handle Stretch
This is a more dynamic stretch that is performed with active movement, so it should not be performed if you're suffering from pain in your upper back. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and place a long stick like a broom handle behind your neck and across your shoulders. Reach up with both arms, and hold the ends of the broom handle with your hands. Begin twisting your upper body from side to side to stretch your upper back muscles. Be sure that you are consciously thinking about relaxing your upper back muscles in order to gain the greatest benefit from this stretch.
Kneeling Paraspinal Stretch
This variety of the upper back stretch is performed from a kneeling position. Kneel down and lower your buttocks until they are resting on your ankles. Reach forward with both arms, and place your palms on the floor. Begin bending your back to slide your hands away from your knees until your forehead is nearly touching the floor. Hold this stretch for about 15 seconds and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.
Kneeling Back Arch
This exercise is sometimes referred to as the cat and camel. Begin from a kneeling position with your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders and your knees on the floor directly under your hips. Rest your forearms on the floor for stability. From this position you should arch your back up as far as you can without severe pain. Hold this position for about 10 seconds, and then reverse the motion to lower your back as if you were trying to touch the floor with your abdomen. Hold this stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat.