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Mid back pain image for Alliance Regen & Rehabs Blog providing mid back stretches for pain relief.

Mid-Back Mobility Stretches for Mid-Back Pain

Mobility means mobile! It’s being able to move your joints freely through their available range of motion. Mid-back mobility in particular is super important by not only helping you improve posture, but by allowing optimal function of your head, neck, shoulders, and back! This helps you get in better alignment which can decrease generalized aches and pains. Improved alignment and mobility has positive effects on the rest of your body – after all, everything is interconnected!

Today we go over why mid-back mobility is something you need to care about, because it is so important. We also go over some mobility stretches to give you some exercises to begin doing that will help increase your range!

What is Mid-Back Mobility, and Why Can It Be Limited?

Mid-back mobility refers to your ability to move the thoracic spine and ribs smoothly through it’s ranges of motion and doing so without restriction – forward bending, backward bending, side-bending, and rotation.

What decreases back mobility? Here’s why you might have back mobility issues:

  • Kyphosis

  • Scoliosis

  • Poor shoulder blade control

  • Improper breathing technique

  • Not utilizing full range of motion throughout the day

  • Postural adaptation

Can Poor Posture Affect Back Mobility?

Note: Please understand that mobility is only one part of the recipe to living free from pain, and it’s likely not the entire solution for most of you. We’ll discuss more on the long term solution below!

Boy looking at phone with poor posture, text neck posture depicting impact on mid-back pian.

You bet it can! Having poor posture can lead to “text neck” (military neck), rounded shoulders, misaligned hips and pelvis, and much more. Poor posture can lead to misalignments that cause pain and restrict you from doing the things you love.

Poor posture is generally thought of as rounded and humped back (this is called kyphosis). The position causes a mis-alignment of your spinal joints and greatly reduces your ability to rotate and extend your spine! This position also leads to muscles being overly shortened and overly stretched, leading to a decrease in strength and atrophy over the course of time!

When that position is limited or a joint is stressed, your muscles may try to guard or become overworked. This can lead to a muscle spasm or cramping, which you can read more about in our blog about Muscle Spasms.

Poor posture not only leads to decreased spinal mobility, but it can have secondary implications to your shoulder function and health. Try this test to see for yourself…

  1. Slouch your shoulders down as if you had poor posture. Now try to raise your arms above your head without changing your posture. Did you feel how restricted?

  2. Stand up tall and try to raise your arms again. Did you notice how much more free the movement felt and how much more range?

This is certainly an exaggeration to illustrate the impact poor mid-back mobility can have, but it only takes a small amount restriction to cause issues over time!

How Often Should You Stretch Your Back Improved Mobility?

The answer to this question totally depends on you, your goals, and how time you’re willing to stretch for per day. We generally recommend stretching for 10-15 minutes per day before your strength training or workout. This way, you’ll be able to fully utilize the new range of motion gains during your workout! The more you utilize your available range, the more that it is preserved! If you sit at a desk for most of the day, take 10 minutes every hour and perform some household duties, walk the dog, or stretch for 10 minutes.

If you’d like more information on stretching, head over to our blog – “Stretching Do’s and Don’ts.”

What Should I Do If I Experience Pain While Doing Back Mobility Exercises?

If you happen to experience pain while doing mid-back mobility exercises, you first want to ensure you are performing the exercise with the correct technique. Having incorrect form or technique can cause compression of joints, discs, or overstretch ligaments before you actually get a stretch of the target muscle! 

A lot of stretching exercises can be somewhat uncomfortable, and this can be your bodies way of letting you know it’s something that needs work. That’s a good type of discomfort and it’s usually in form of a stretch, tightness, or even a deep ache.. That type of discomfort is certainly different than a more acute pain with sharpness, tingling, or burning. That’s your bodies way of telling you to slow it down, as it’s too much for it to handle and it’s time to stop or modify. . Know the difference so you can manage yourself appropriately! 

Best Mobility Exercises To Do For Your Back

Here is a list of our favorite mobility exercises to help you increase your back mobility!

  • Foam Roll your thoracic spine
  • Cat-Cows
  • Lateral Bending QL Stretch
  • Half Kneel Banded Rotations on Wall
  • Golf Stretch for improved rotation
  • Thoracic 3-way Rotation
Pro Tip: Follow up your stretching/mobility drills with strengthening to get even better results! This improved that neuromuscular connection and activation through that new range of motion you’re creating.

How Does Stretching Help With Back Pain and Mid-Back Mobility?

Stretching and mobility exercises can help improve pain and range of motion, and it can also be used to help maintain range of motion through recovery! As mentioned above, we recommend combining this with body alignment and strengthening exercises to help get better and lasting results! Here are some was stretching can help:

  1. Improving Posture: tightness of muscles in the front your chest and through your mid back can cause you to hunch forward, leading to poor posture and potentially pain. Stretching helps improve that posture by releasing tight muscles and allowing your body to restore its alignment. 
  2. Promoting Circulation: Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles which brings in important nutrients and oxygen to help them heal and recover strain, injury, or a workout.
  3. Relieving muscle tension: Stretching and mobility exercises help to release tension in the muscles of your mid back and torso. Your joints and muscles are related, as your muscles do move your joints to perform movement. Doing these exercises not just work on the joints, but it also works the muscles by forcing them to contract, relax, elongate, and control movement.
  4. Improving flexibility: When muscles are tight and stiff, they can contribute to reduced range of motion and discomfort. Stretching and mobility routines help increase flexibility and range of motion, thereby reducing injury risk. 

How Do I Fix My Mid-Back Pain?

The first step to fixing your back pain is starting with foundation – proper breathing. You want to reduce the workload of your intercostal muscles through transitioning from a chest breathing pattern to a diaphragmatic breathing pattern. After learning this proper pattern, you can learn to extend and expand your your ribs. When you can breathe well and maintain spinal alignment, you can begin to realign your shoulder blades through strengthening and stretching of muscles that attach to your shoulder blade! Once all of these boxes are checked, you will notice improved mobility, less back pain, increased strength, and smoother movement.

You can learn proper techniques by coming to see us at Alliance Regen & Rehab in St. Petersburg, FL! Our Doctors of Physical Therapy or our Sports Medicine Physicians can help you find the cause and develop a path to correct it!