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Healthy Upper Back: Exercises


Here are some examples of exercises for your upper back. Start each exercise slowly. Ease off the exercise if you start to have pain.

Your doctor or physiotherapist will tell you when you can start these exercises and which ones will work best for you.

How to do the exercises

Lower neck and upper back (rhomboid) stretch

slide 1 of 6
slide 1 of 6, Lower neck and upper back (rhomboid) stretch,
  1. Sit in a firm chair, or stand tall.
  2. With your arms about shoulder height, clasp your hands in front of you.
  3. Drop your chin toward your chest.
  4. Reach straight forward so you are rounding your upper back. Think about pulling your shoulder blades apart. You'll feel a stretch across your upper back and shoulders.
  5. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Midback stretch

Picture of how to do midback stretch
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slide 2 of 6, Midback stretch,

If you have knee pain, do not do this exercise.

  1. Kneel on the floor, and sit back on your ankles.
  2. Lean forward, place your hands on the floor, and stretch your arms out in front of you. Rest your head between your arms.
  3. Gently push your chest toward the floor, reaching as far in front of you as possible.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Shoulder roll

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slide 3 of 6, Shoulder roll,
  1. Stand or sit up straight, with your chin slightly tucked.
  2. Keep your arms relaxed. All motion will be in your shoulders.
  3. Roll your shoulders up, then back, then down, and then forward in a smooth, circular motion. Repeat at least 2 to 4 times.
  4. Then go the other direction. Press your shoulders down, then back, then up, and then forward in a smooth, circular motion. Repeat at least 2 to 4 times.

Wall push-up

Picture of how to do wall push-up exercise
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slide 4 of 6, Wall push-up,
  1. Stand against a wall with your feet about 30 to 60 centimetres back from the wall. If you feel any pain when you do this exercise, stand closer to the wall.
  2. Place your hands on the wall slightly wider apart than your shoulders, and lean forward.
  3. Gently lean your body toward the wall. Then push back to your starting position. Keep the motion smooth and controlled.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Resisted shoulder-blade squeeze (elbows bent)

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slide 5 of 6, Resisted shoulder-blade squeeze (elbows bent),
  1. Sit or stand, holding an exercise band in both hands in front of you. Keep your elbows close to your sides, bent at a 90-degree angle. Your palms should face up.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and move your hands to the outside, stretching the band. Keep your elbows at your sides.
  3. Slowly return to your starting position.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Resisted row

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slide 6 of 6, Resisted row,
  1. Anchor an exercise band at about waist level. You can loop the band around a solid object, like a bedpost or handrail. Or you can tie a knot in the middle of the band and shut a door on the band so the knot is on the other side of the door. (Or you can have someone hold one end of the loop to provide resistance.)
  2. Stand or sit facing where you have placed the band. Hold one end of the band in each hand.
  3. Hold your arms out in front of you. Adjust your hold on the band so you have some tension on it.
  4. With your shoulders relaxed, pull the bands back, and move your shoulder blades toward each other. Your elbows will pass along your waist.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.