Your Personal PT, Rachel Tavel, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), so she knows how to get your body back on track when it’s out of line. In this weekly series, she gives you tips on how to feel better, get stronger, and train smarter.
By now, everyone knows that sitting all day is bad for your body. Unfortunately, many jobs require countless hours spent craning your neck over a computer at a desk to get things done. High productivity and good body positioning don’t always go together.
All that sitting can lead to a hunched upper body complete with a forward head and rounded shoulders. If this position is sustained for several hours, it can lead to pain and discomfort in the upper back. If you spend days, weeks, months, or even years in this position, that stress can lead to more chronic pain and weakness.
Even though upper back pain is quite common in today’s society, that doesn’t make it any more comfortable. Do something about it, before that pain becomes part of your life.
Your Move: Sustained forward, rounded shoulders can put a strain on your upper back. Reverse that curve with some exercises that help mobilize the thoracic spine and activate the muscles of the upper back and shoulders.
To start, use a foam roller to gently extend your upper back. Start with the foam roller on the floor. Rest your upper back over it. Lift your hips as you gently roll your body up and down the foam roller or simply keep your hips on the ground and, with hands clasped behind your head (your face should be up), slowly and gently extend your upper back backwards over the foam roller to arch the back and open the ribs.
Pair this mobilization with a prone scap squeeze, a scapular muscle strengthening exercise to keep you in better alignment. Begin lying on your stomach, with forehead resting on a small rolled towel or pillow, arms down by your sides and palms facing your body. Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together, reaching the fingers towards your toes as you lift the head and chest off the floor (keep your eyes face down).
Spend about 1 minute on the foam roller (alternative if you don’t have a foam roller: work through 10 some cat camel stretches) and do 2 sets of 10 reps of the scapular retraction (or “prone scap squeeze”) exercise on your stomach. Do both of these daily for a couple weeks and see how you feel.