Back pain

Primer on Upper Back Pain

Whether you sit all day for work or experiencing stresses on your upper back due to heavy lifting, it is important to maintain the health of your upper back or otherwise known as Thoracic spine. When a client develops stiffness and/or pain in the upper back, the areas above (cervical) and below (lumbar) will have to compensate to achieve functional range of motion. This is why clients who complain about neck pain and/or shoulder pain also have complaints of pain in their upper back.


Each individual is different with different demands put on their bodies. Here are a several reasons for pain in the upper back:

  • Overuse of muscles or ligaments from heavy lifting
  • Injury to the vertebral discs
  • Abnormal pressure on the nerves of the spine from conditions such as herniated disc, tendonitis or degenerative joint disease
  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fracture
  • Myofascial pain

Exercises You Can Do

Strengthening and stretching exercises are some of the tools our physiotherapists use to restore strength in the upper back. Some of the exercises are outlined below and can be done without any equipment:

  1. Prone lateral raise

Lying stomach down on a comfortable surface (i.e. Bench or carpet) with arms extended, lift your arms up until your elbows are at shoulder height. Keep your arms perpendicular to your torso and fully extended throughout the movement. When lifting, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for one count. Repeat 15 times 3 times a day

  1. Front raise thumbs up

Lying stomach down on a comfortable surface with the forehead relaxed and on the surface. Place your extended arms over your head and thumbs up in the air. Exhale and raise your arms up straight while fully extended. During lift off, squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades. Hold for one count. Repeat 15 times 3 times a day.

  1. Arm Slides

Stand against a wall while slightly squatting. Place elbows and wrist pressed parallel against the wall. Slowly slide your arms up as high as you can keeping your elbows and wrists against the wall. Repeat 15 times.

Our physiotherapists at Complete Care Physiotherapy Brampton aim to restore normal function and improve our clients’ mobility via reducing pain in the affected area and bring back strength and flexibility.