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Upper Back & Neck Stretches

author image Beth Rifkin
Based in San Francisco, Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis," "American Fitness" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.
Upper Back & Neck Stretches
A woman is learning how to stretch her neck. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

A slumping posture, long hours in front of a computer or a sedentary lifestyle can lead to tension and tightness in your neck and upper back. You might feel pain as a result and your stability and performance ability in athletic and fitness activities can be compromised. Opening the upper back and releasing tension through a regular stretching program can help.

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Step 1

Warm up with approximately 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity performed at a moderate pace. Stretching cold muscles can lead to an injury. Examples of cardio include jogging, walking, cycling and rowing.

Step 2

Stretch your upper back with the right angle pose. Stand approximately two feet in front of a wall; turn to face the wall. Pull your stomach muscles in toward your lower back and push the shoulder blades down and away from your ears. Bend at the hips and bring your upper body forward, stopping when your chest is parallel to the floor. Reach your arms over your head as you continue to push the shoulder blades down. Extend your arms straight and press your hands into the wall. Move forward or backward if needed to achieve a 90-degree position with your body. Align your hips so they are directly over your feet. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Step 3

Perform the flexion stretch to ease the tightness in the back of your neck and in your upper back. Sit tall in a sturdy chair with an elongated spine; engage your abdominal muscles and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Bring your chin toward your chest, slowly; allow your head to move forward in its natural range of motion rather than force the chin down. Stop when you feel a stretch on the back of your neck. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and release. Repeat three to five times if needed.

Step 4

Release the side and back of your neck with the ear-to-shoulder stretch. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your shoulders stacked over your hips. Activate your stomach muscles and relax the shoulders away from your ears. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder by gently tilting your head to the side; you should feel a stretch throughout the left side of your neck. Deepen the stretch by placing your right hand on the left side of your head and gently pushing the right ear closer to the shoulder. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release. Repeat on the left side.

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