Suffering from a tense or tight upper back right now is a very common problem. If you’re working from home or self-isolating right now, it’s likely you’re spending a lot of time at your laptop, watching TV, on your phone or maybe even relaxing with a good book. The fact is that all of these activities can give you upper back pain, so we’re going to explain today why this happens, and what three stretches you can do at home that can help your symptoms right now.

What causes upper back pain?

Our spine has a natural, good alignment that when we adopt allows us to effectively distribute the weight of gravity that bears down on us throughout the day. This position allows our joints to work effectively and stay mobile, and our muscles to stay flexible and strong. When we start to alter the spinal alignment, through repeated poor posture throughout the day as we’re sitting hunched at our desk, in a recumbent position with your head propped up in bed or on the sofa, or if you’re just simply staring down at your phone, all of these can alter the alignment of our spine over time if we do them enough. Particularly when we’re sitting hunched with the shoulders rounded, this stretches the muscles across the back – although it may not feel as if they’re being stretched at the time as usually stretching can feel rather good! Despite these muscles being stretched, we start to feel tightness across the upper back, shoulders and neck. The temptation here when the muscles are tight is to try and stretch them further, but if they’re overstretched already this wouldn’t necessarily be very helpful.

What exercises can you do to help?

There’s three exercises in particular we would recommend if this is something that you’re suffering with right now, or you’re conscious you’re spending a lot of time in these hunched over positions or with bad posture. If you’re aware this is something you’re doing, taking steps to correct your posture and doing exercises that strengthen your posture will be very helpful in addressing the problem long-term. We won’t be going through those exercises here, but they’re part of our Phase 2 section of the membership area, available at

Cervical Extensions

The first exercise you can do to help is one that we talk about frequently in our other articles and videos. This stretch helps you to relieve the pressure on the neck joints, and can be specifically altered in order to intensify the stretch for this type of person who spends a lot of time hunched over. You’ll need a strong resistance band, placing the middle at the back of your neck and holding each end in each hand.

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As you pull forwards on the band, look back with your head. In this movement, we’re recreating that natural and ideal cervical curve that you’re likely to be lacking right now, and helping just to relieve the pressure on the neck. As an alternative method of the exercise, at the depth of the movement you can also lean the neck to each side to intensify the stretch as well. Repeat for 10 repetitions. If you’d like to see a walk-through video where Michael goes through how to perform the exercise then please visit:

Pectoral Stretch

This is a stretch we don’t often talk about, but can feel very relieving if you’re spending a lot of time hunched over and helps to just reset your posture. You’ll need to lie on your back on the floor. Arms need to be out to the side at right angles to your body. You may be quite tempted to arch your back here but try to not do that. Your arms may or may not lie flat on the floor in this stretch, depending on your flexibility, but you’re just pushing those hands towards the ground. If you’re particularly inflexible, you may find it helpful for someone to help with pushing those hands towards the ground. You may also experience numbness in the fingers during this stretch. If you do, it’s a sign you might be more tight across this area than you likely anticipated. There’s a lot of nerves around the pectoral muscles so it can be quite common for those to become compressed in this stretch, but don’t worry as this will go as soon as you release the arms. Hold this for around 3-5 minutes. We have a guided walkthrough of this exercise you can find here:

Cervical Disc Stretch

Again, this is an exercise we frequently recommend so you may have read about this one before. This is an exceptional exercise to help reset your neck posture, take the pressure off any compressed joints and muscles in the neck and perform a safe version of spinal decompression at home. You’ll need to lie on the floor, with a rolled up towel roughly the thickness of a water bottle. Place it quite close to your shoulders underneath the neck, so that you’re looking up and back. If you have it placed too high in the neck, you might be looking more towards your toes which won’t be helpful so do avoid doing this. Relax in this stretch again for around 3-5 minutes. If you’d like a walkthrough of this exercise, you can find a link to a video demonstration here:

We hope you’ve found this article helpful! These tips all help to address the underlying causes of why you might be getting tight upper back muscles or pain in the area at this time, but again do make sure to check out our membership area at if you’d like to access the postural strengthening exercises. These will help to resolve the problem in the long-term and are available in phase 2 of the membership. If you have any questions at all about the topic today, please do feel free to get in touch with us either on our social channels, by email at or by tuning in to our livestreams every weekday on Facebook and YouTube.

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