Exercises For Improving Your Upper Back and Neck Posture

Exercises For Improving Your Upper Back and Neck Posture

I’ll be the first to admit that when I first started practicing as a sports chiropractor, I didn’t respect the amount of impact posture can have on neck and upper back pain.

I used to think if you were doing "all the right things" such as staying active and exercising that posture wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Well... I was wrong!

But, let's not go too far in the other direction either. if your posture isn’t textbook your upper back and neck aren't going to explode into immediate pain!

Whether you're experiencing neck and upper back pain or just want to tune-up your posture having a couple movements you can perform throughout your workday can be highly beneficial!

... Let's go over a few!

Why Does “Bad” Posture Cause Pain?

It’s physics!

Side note: Physics was the hardest class I ever took in undergrad (I still have nightmares about it) so I’ll keep to the basics here before I start having terrible flashbacks!

When your body falls out of alignment it can increase the load on certain tissues and forces them to work a little harder, sometimes a lot harder!

Your tissues can start having unfavorable adaptations and over time this can cause issues in the tissues (sorry, had to use that phrase)!

They can become tight, stiff, achy and painful. It can also lead to a decrease in your range of motion.

What Are The Mechanics Behind This?

Let’s imagine you have a 5 foot stick with a 10 pound weight on the top. When that pole  is straight up and down, no problem! The force from the weight is passed through the pole and goes into the ground.

But, let’s say you start leaning that stick forward. And once that 10 pound weight starts moving forward… there is a lot more force being applied to the stick.

This is like what happens when your head drifts forward. Your neck and upper back muscles have to work harder to keep your head up!

And that increased load over a long workday can cause issues (I won't say "issues in the tissues" again)!

Exercises For Improving Posture

Bad postural positions mentioned above can cause muscle imbalances. Often, we will have some weakness/inhibition of the deep neck flexors and the middle and lower trapezius.

So when we choose exercises to combat poor posture we need to select exercises that target these areas.

and here they are...

The Band Pull Apart

I really like this one as it works the back and opens up the chest at the same time. It feels great and I regularly do this one in my own personal routine!

Amazon (affiliate) link if you need a band: https://amzn.to/3B3RE3m

I really like utilizing super bands (exercise bands) in the home exercises I give to people. They're convenient to have at your home or office and there are countless exercises you can do with them!

Quadruped Chin Retractions and Cat/Cow

These movements are staples in most upper back and neck rehab programs because they don't require any equipment and you can perform them anywhere!

How To Start Using These Exercises

When I prescribe theses movements in my office I recommend starting to incorporate these spread throughout your workday.

I am a big believer in taking "micro-breaks" which are small breaks spread throughout your work day to break up the monotony of sitting all day!

A good micro-break would be 1 set of 10-20 reps.