5 Easy Ways to Increase Thoracic Spine Mobility and Get Rid of Neck and Upper back Tension

Are you constantly suffering from upperback strain or neck pain?

Well here are a couple easy fixes to those issues.

Utilizing several soft tissue therapy instruments like foam rollers, lacrosse balls, half rollers and a double-taped lacrosse ball (peanut) can really help out correcting some postural deficiencies that may be causing you a lot of neck pain and stiffness either before a workout or just to ease the stress from the day.

Typically the postural alignments that we're facing during the day (ie. hunched over a phone or computer screen) need to be corrected in the gym and worked on consistently in order to give us pain free range of motion and realign our posture to a more optimal position.  That way we can move freely and without pain.

The Foam Roller

Using a foam roller on the ground. Lay the roller perpendicular to the body and roll back and forth across the upper back.  You'll want your feet to be stable and with a bent knee so you can glide over the roller from the scapula to just below the neck.  This should be slightly uncomfortable, but feel really good.

Next you can turn the roller parallel with the body.  Then lie on the roller so the hips and neck are fully supported.  From there you can simply let the arms dangle from the sides or do a 'snow angel' motion on the roller to help loosen up the chest and shoulder muscles.  This is an excellent stretch to help reset the back and stretch out those overly tighten pectoral muscles.  Try it, I bet you fall asleep for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

The Lacrosse Ball Mash

Now to loosen up those tight muscles you can take two lacrosse ball that have been taped together and place them on the floor.  You'll want to lie on this peanut shaped roller just below the neck and lower skull.  Be careful to not put the ball on the spine itself.  There should be enough room to hit the muscles along the spine, but not directly on the spinal segments themselves.  Next you can work your belly breathing and just apply a little pressure to those neck muscles (ie. traps, splenius capitus, and semispinalis capitus muscles).  This can really ease a lot of upper neck tension that can lead to headaches.

Tiger Ball Mash

To follow on with the upper neck muscles we'll get into the teres major and minor with a lacrosse ball or Tiger Ball.  For this one you can go off the wall or the floor, placing the lacrosse ball inbetween the shoulder blades (not on the spine).  Gently roll up and down along the border of the shoulder blades inbetween the spine (again, not on the spine itself).  Those muscles are typically tight and angry.  Releasing them frees up the shoulder blades to enable you to move the arms throughout a full range of motion without pain.

Now once you've loosened up those tight muscular knots you should feel much, much better.  However, this is only a quick fix.  If you're upper back is tight consistently, there's probably a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.  This should be handled by a fitness or medical professional that can go through your daily routine an pin point certain issues that may be causing the problem, whether it's muscular weakness, poor postural awareness or work place trauma.

Contact us today to set up an assessment or come in for our Open Mobility Class starting on Wednesdays at 3pm!

Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.