If you have upper back pain, you're not alone. As many as 80 percent of the population experiences it at some point, estimates the American Chiropractic Association. The common cause of upper back pain is muscular irritation. Keeping your muscles healthy and fit can help avoid or alleviate upper back pain. While the common cause of pain in the upper back is muscular irritation, it is always a good idea to consult with your physician to rule out any other underlying issues.
After a day of sitting at a computer, those "knots" you feel in your upper back might be due to your trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscle is in the upper back and divided into the upper, middle and lower regions. It is responsible for head extension, lateral head movement, upper rotation of the arm and allows the shoulder to move up and down. Injuries to the trapezius muscles result from overuse or repetitive motion. Some stretches and exercises that work to strengthen the trapezius muscles include supermans, Cat-Camel, contralateral limb raises, shoulder packing and standing barbell shrug.
The latissimus dorsi muscle is a large muscle that extends from the lower half of the back to the side of the ribcage and up to the arm. It aids in the movement of the arm to the side and front of the body as well as bending and straightening the trunk. The latissimus dorsi can cause pain under the shoulder blade. Repetitive arm movement, especially with the arms raised, is the most common cause of latissimus dorsi pain. A common exercise for this muscle is the lateral pull-down.
Rhomboideus Major and Minor
The rhomboideus major and minor muscles are in the upper back and connect your spine to your shoulder blades. They assist in shoulder stability and posture. A common cause of pain from these muscles is overuse. The location of the pain is between the shoulder blades and the spine. Movement tends to increase the pain. Exercises that target the rhomboideus, or rhomboids, include neck rotation and the rhomboid stretch. To do the rhomboid stretch, extend your arms out in front and place one hand on top of the other. Reach and stretch your arms forward and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. You should feel a stretching between your shoulder blades.
Shoulder packing is an exercise that strengthens all of these muscles. Stand with your feet apart at hip width. As you exhale, pull your shoulder blades down and back, making sure not to arch your spine. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat for four repetitions. For a variation, perform this exercise while lying on your back.
Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.