Have you ever wondered how to fix upper back pain? You know, that spot on your back where it feels like you have knots for days. In this video, I am going to breakdown why you are experiencing upper back pain and 5 moves you can do to fix it for good. There is no need to live in chronic pain when there’s a solution that will have your back feeling better right away.

More often than not, when it comes to pain in the upper back, it doesn’t have to do with the muscles in the area (the rhomboids). Instead it has more to do with the joints in the area and that is namely the thoracic spine. When there is a dysfunction in the thoracic spine, you will often feel it in the surrounding muscles, but because they are not the root cause, we aren’t going to be targeting them directly. Instead, the brunt of our focus for this video will be on mobilizing the thoracic spine.

The first move that you can do to deal with your upper back pain is called the rhomboid pushup. While not actually targeting the muscles in terms of strengthening them, they are active throughout the mobilization of the thoracic spine. By allowing your chest to drop down towards the ground, you are contracting the muscles through their range of motion and as you protract to reach the top end of the pushup, you are placing them on stretch. Taking these muscles along for the ride as you move the thoracic spine will be the first step in eliminating that pain in the upper back.

Next, you are going to need to stand close to a wall and perform the wall splat. The key takeaways for this move are to keep your arms spread wider in order to alleviate any potential shoulder discomfort, driving your knee towards to the wall, and sinking your hips into the movement as you try to bring yourself closer to the wall. Doing the last two will help you to feel to move your thoracic spine deeper through the range of motion as you come closer to the wall. You will feel this almost instantly and will be good feedback on what your upper back should feel like when it has full range of motion.

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The third move that you should perform in order to get rid of upper back pain is a mobilization drill that I like to call “can openers”. Simply get down on your knees and elbows, place one arm behind your head and rotate your upper back so that that arm is now pointing towards the ceiling. Hold at the top for a few seconds before returning to rest and then repeating the move again. Something to note in this move is the actively retract the shoulder blade of the arm that is bent behind the head. Repeat on the other side to make sure you avoid any imbalances.

This stretch, the 11:15 stretch (as I like to call it,) not only works great, but feels great too. One of the biggest points to make note of on this move is to not only make sure that your arms are in the right position, but to retract the shoulder blade of the arm that is in the 15 position. Just like with the can openers, while you want to reach out as far as you can in this position, you also want to actively retract that scapula. This willl help to reinforce the mobilization of the thoracic spine which is key in order to fix that upper back pain you’ve been going through.

The last move that you can perform here in this sequence is one that I’ve suggest that you should do every day in order to feel amazing. This is called the bridge and reach over. Not only does this movement help to mobilize the thoracic spine with the reach over, but it also allows for the entire kinetic chain to get involved so that you are moving multiple parts of your body in concert. From your feet all the way up to your head, you are working everything in tandem and making sure that everything mobilized. I think this is one of the best things you can do for any back pain, especially in the upper back.

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If you are looking for a complete workout program that will fix your aches and pains while also helping you to build a ripped athletic body, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and check out the program selector to find the right program for you.

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40 thoughts on “How to Fix Upper Back Pain (NO MORE KNOTS!)”
  1. *THE GIVEAWAY IS BACK* – I’m giving away my brand new complete 90 Day Beaxst PPL program to 40 lucky clickers within the first hour this video is published! Remember, this is NOT THE FIRST 40, but those randomly selected within the first hour the video is published. Click the link to see if you’ve won. No strings attached! Clicking twice does nothing. Only one entry per video. Remember to watch to the end for more workouts.

    If you don’t win, no worries, you’re not going away empty handed. Just be sure you have your notifications turned on so you can get to my next video quickly and try again. Good luck and thanks for being a loyal subscriber…

    1. Greetings from Norway

      Would you believe me if I told you, I have had this damn pain almost 11 years now. and that 4 physiotherapists I went to, could not understand what Jeff just showed here?

      Just tried it at home, it almost brought me to tears – I already I feel the “click clack” type resistance to the movement getting less, and the pain dissipating. Only a matter of time before the upper back “tie” to my left shoulder disappears…. Just as the lower back problems disappeared 7 weeks after I began exercising the lower back almost 5 years ago! NONE of the 4 physiotherapists I tried showed me this, and nothing they tried helped until now! Thank you Jeff and Jesse!

    2. Hey Jeff can you make a video like this one but for upper trap pain (the kind you get from sleeping on your shoulder the wrong way). My right side trap muscles have been bothering me for 3 days now.

  2. A video about scoliosis would be helpful! Many athletes use one side of their body more than the other and eventually it becomes their dominant side. I think scoliosis causes problems because of the dominant side. So, my question is, how can we manage this issue?

    1. @Jean-Pierre Le Bourveau at a high percentage scoliosis is idiopathic

    2. What if one who practices a sport became dominant on one side learnt to recruit the same muscle movement on the other side? Much like a two legged soccer player; would this potentially even out the muscle in-balance created by athletes performing their sports on high levels reducing the risk of contracting scoliosis?

      I myself played badminton starting age 7 till age 15 where I definitely overused my right side of my upper torso playing games at fairly high levels. Recently decided to pick up doing cardio besides strength training off-gym site and picked up playing it again at age 33. Big blessing that I started fitness after I quit playing badminton early age since that gave me the opportunity to train my body more evenly in the gym. Now I find myself being the oddbal who plays badminton double handed with two rackets at the same time trying to learn muscle recruitment to the same affect as my dominant hand to even out earlier developed muscle in balans within my sport of choice besides fitness.

    3. @Rishi RigVeda someone who practice a one hand or one leg sport (Handball, Football, Tennis) will not find it difficult to perform well in the game if they train only the side that they need the most. And by “train” I mean the basic techniques. It’s important for them to learn how to use both the right and the left side of their body in some sports (Handball, Football) and the reason is that during the game the use of the “non-dominant” side may be needed. However, a tennis player uses one side of it’s body primarly. And that is for the whole game or even for it’s whole career. This doesn’t mean that some parts of their body remain untrained. I mean that a tennis player will lose a very significant amount of time if it’s training goal is to perform with excellence on both sides. Take a look at their forearms and you will understand the difference. If someone learn how to recruit both their sides I guess an imbalance will be more difficult to show up. A swimmer will need both of it’s sides equally trained. You my friend stopped playing badminton very young. A body at the age of 15 has the ability to recover from almost everything. If you had scoliosis and the 8 years of badminton made it worse, your body was able to recover from it because of your growth that was still in process. There is also the scenario of you not having scoliosis at all. I’m sure that resistance training helped you a lot but that is not always the case. Resistance training can go bad if an imbalance preexists and no one mentioned it. I don’t know what your training program was like. I don’t know if you had a pro guidelines or if you didn’t train a lot. Nevertheless, my question is about someone who has scoliosis and the dominant side of their body made it a bit worse during their athletic career.

    4. My question in not for everyone to answer it. If I wanted a random guy to answer to my question, I wouldn’t have published it here. I just hope that Jeff will notice it.

  3. I have been dealing with this all my life. I even had back surgery on my lower back 15 years ago, but things became worse. I only did this once, along with the video, except the machine work, and I can feel the tension release that I’ve sought all along. Thank you! I will be doing this religiously henceforth. Take care and God bless. ✝️

    1. Surgery always makes it worse. It’s some egotistical monkey in a white coat cutting you open. “Oh but it’s current year, we know stuff.” is total BS. Monkeys.

  4. I’ve been doing a similar regiment for some time and it has helped my back pain immensely

  5. Perfect timing as I have been doing PT for a recent dislocated shoulder. My thoracic and CT junction has been so tight

  6. Mobility/Flexibility
    0:52 Serratus Pushup (Scapula Protraction)
    1:35 Wall Splat (Thoracic Extension)
    2:40 Can Openers (Thoracic Rotation)
    3:20 11/15 Stretch (Scapula Retraction)
    4:35 Bridge and Reach Over (Thoracic Extension/Rotation, Glute Activation)

    5:05 Superman W Pull
    6:10 Wraparound Rows

  7. This is the video I’ve been waiting for, been struggling with this a long time. Amazing information as always

  8. I’ve been having a lot of annoying pain in this area. It’s like a weird dull muscle ache. These exercises helped me finally target those muscles! Thanks Jeff!

  9. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been struggling with this pain for years and doing these stretches and exercises provides almost instant relief

  10. Appreciate this video! I’ve had lower and thoracic problems for over 25 years. I eventually learned how to take care of them through a process of elimination (along with help from a good P.T. such as yourself). My thoracic region gets ‘locked’, causing significant pain, and the BEST thing I’ve found is to literally grab my ankles, knees straight, and then arch my back as much as possible. This allows me to ‘pop’ my thoracic vertebrae, and when it does, it gives immediate relief. For my lower back, nothing brings relief nearly as much as using an inversion table, which I do religiously most every day (I also do upside down crunches to hit my abs/core). Both these measures work great for me, so I thought I’d throw it out there. Lovin’ your content!

  11. Amazing timing on the video! My upper back started hurting this morning (I believe from over work from overhead press). I really appreciate this video Jeff/Jesse!

  12. I was feeling pain in this area for over a week caused by training. I just finished to do the exercises and it feels so much better. Thanks for the great content Jeff!!

  13. I never thought this would be something actually common. I have pain in this area very randomly. Once I woke up in the middle of the night with this area completely locked. Thanks a lot for this, really, it’s life changing!

  14. I love you Jeff, I’ve had upper back problems in that exact area ever since seeing a chiropractor about a year ago. I’d never once had them before that and now it won’t seem to go away and I’m gonna start all of these exercises today.

  15. Jeff I… I can’t thank you enough. I have had a chronic pain in that middle back thoracic spine area for 9 months now and each exercice has made me feel a pleasurable tingle sensation in the zone of pain. God bless you. You are amazing

  16. I fell off of a landing gear door back in 2016 and landed on a large metal structure across my thoracic area. Rotated my vertebrae and have had muscle spasms since. To say my upper back has been tight since then would be an understatement. These are the first moves I’ve done that have actually made a difference. Thanks!

  17. Thanks Jeff. Had been looking for a cure for many days as I do thoracic extension for chest press. Every time I extend my chest I felt pain and my spine is properly locked down and I have no more room to go. I thought I was extending too much. But you showed me the medicine man, thanks a lot.

  18. This is exactly the training I needed to help my back in this area I fell it every day and now I can help improve it. Thanks Jeff!

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