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Upper- and Mid-Back Stretches

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
Upper- and Mid-Back Stretches
Even if you don't have back pain, you might have tight muscles. Photo Credit: JGI/Blend Images/Getty Images

If you're like most people, you probably spend a decent amount of time sitting during the day. Unless you have perfect posture, pressure increases on your spine with prolonged sitting. This can lead to tight muscles in your upper- and mid-back. Perform stretches to decrease tightness in these muscles.

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Read more: Why is Posture Important?

Perform stretches during the workday without even leaving your desk.
Perform stretches during the workday without even leaving your desk. Photo Credit: imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images

Overhead Reach

Reaching overhead stretches muscles in your upper- and mid-back. Lean to each side individually to stretch muscles on each side of your back.

Step 1

Sit up as straight as possible. Reach both arms overhead and interlock your fingers.

Step 2

Press your hands straight up toward the ceiling as if you are trying to make yourself taller. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.

Step 3

To target one side of your back at a time, press your hands toward the ceiling then lean over to one side. Stop when you feel a stretch along the opposite side of your back. Repeat in the other direction.

Several yoga poses stretch the upper- and mid-back muscles.
Several yoga poses stretch the upper- and mid-back muscles. Photo Credit: jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Kneeling Stretch

The kneeling stretch is also a yoga position called Child's pose.

Step 1

Kneel on a firm but comfortable surface. Sit back on your heels. If you can't get in this position, place a folded towel between your buttocks and heels.

Step 2

Lean forward and rest your chest on your thighs. Reach your arms out in front of you. Allow your chin to drop down toward your chest.

Step 3

Slowly walk your hands out in front of you until you feel a strong stretch along your upper- and mid-back muscles. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Relax and repeat three times.

Step 4

Target one side of your back by walking your hands out at an angle. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side of the direction your hands are pointing.

Lat Stretch

The latissimus dorsi are large muscles located on each side of your upper- and mid-back. These muscles are commonly referred to as "lats." Avoid the lat stretch if you have shoulder pain.

Step 1

Find a ledge that is approximately chest-height, such as a fireplace mantle. You can also perform this stretch by placing your hands on the wall at the same height.

Step 2

Grasp the ledge with your hands shoulder-width apart. Without moving your arms, slowly bend forward at your hips. Allow your head to drop toward your chest. Stop when you feel a stretch along the sides of your upper- and mid-back.

Step 3

Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then relax. Repeat three times.

Shoulder Shrugs and Rolls

Muscles that shrug and roll your shoulders are actually located in your upper back. Briefly tightening these muscles can help them relax.

Step 1

Stand or sit up straight with your arms resting at your sides.

Step 2

Shrug your shoulders up as far as possible toward your ears. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Step 3

Roll your shoulders by first shrugging them up toward your ears. Rather than holding this position, slowly roll your shoulders back and down. Continue to make a circle by bringing your shoulders forward and back up. Circle 10 times in a forward direction, then 10 times in a backward direction.

Stretches can be performed with household items such as a towel.
Stretches can be performed with household items such as a towel. Photo Credit: didi/amana images/Getty Images

Towel Stretch

Muscles in your upper- and mid-back can be stretched with minimal effort on your part, using a towel.

Step 1

Roll a towel and place it sideways on the ground. Lie on your back with the towel at the level of your shoulder blades.

Step 2

Raise your arms overhead and rest them on the ground. For the best results, keep your legs out straight. However, if this position bothers your lower back, you can bend your knees.

Step 3

Lie in this stretched position for 30 to 60 seconds, then bring your arms back down and relax. Repeat three times.

Read more: Thoracic Spine Stretches

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