Key Takeaways
  • Posture, lifestyle and stress play key roles in contributing to upper back pain and tension
  • Upper back ‘tension’ may actually stem from upper back weakness
  • Ergonomics, rehabilitation exercises and manual therapy are useful in combatting upper back pain and tension
  • You should seek professional help if you have been experiencing pain or tension in the upper back for over 1 week without improvement

We know you work hard at the gym, but let’s face it; spending hours at a desk can leave you with aching upper back tension. It’s a common issue many of us face, but fear not! In this blog post, we’ll shed light on what exactly this condition is, why it occurs, how a rehab professional can help, and what you can expect on your journey to full recovery. So, let’s get those knots untangled!


Understanding Upper Back Tension


Picture this: you’re slouched over your desk, engrossed in your work, and your upper back feels tight from shoulder to shoulder, and up into the base of your skull. That’s what upper back pain is, but why is it there? 

Why It’s There

1. Posture Predicament: Slouching over your computer or phone for extended periods can put extra stress on your upper back muscles, but not in the way that you might think. Staying in that slouched position for a prolonged period of time can actually cause these muscles to stretch and weaken over time, leading to that painful tension feeling you experience all too often.

2. Sedentary Situation: Staying glued to your chair, immobile for hours can cause joint stiffness in the thoracic spine, further contributing to that painful feeling.

3. Stress Showdown: Life’s stressors can sneak into your body, and the upper back is no exception. Stress causes stimulation of the ‘fight or flight’ response in the body, tightening up our muscles and even changing the way we breathe. Shallow chest breathing is a byproduct of stress, which can lead to tension and overuse of the breathing muscles at the front of your chest – further pulling your forwards into that hunched position over time.

How a Physio or Osteo Can Help


Time to talk about solutions! 

1. Lifestyle and Ergonomics: A healthcare professional will assess your posture and help you make adjustments to keep your upper back happy. This might also include a discussion around lifestyle changes and workplace ergonomics. 

2. Helping Hands: Your healthcare professional will use a combination of manual therapy– like massage and joint mobilisations– to relieve the stress in your upper back

3. Strength and Stretch: Personalised exercises to strengthen weak muscles in the upper back and stretch tight ones in the chest. 

Realistic Timelines for Full Recovery


Now, let’s get real about the timeline for recovery. Everyone’s body is different, but here’s a rough idea of what to expect:


Quick Relief: You’ll likely experience some relief after the first few sessions with your physio or osteo, as long as advice on exercise rehab and ergonomics is adhered to.

Steady Progress: Over the next few weeks to months, with consistent treatment and exercises, you may notice significant improvement in upper back tension.

Long-term Goals: Don’t forget, this is a journey, not a sprint! Achieving full recovery might take several months, especially for those with chronic tension.

So there you have it! Upper back tension is a common beast, but with the right moves, you can conquer it. Remember, slay it with good posture, the guidance of your trusty practitioner, and some well-deserved self-care. Keep rocking those workouts and let your upper back know that desk hours won’t stand in your way! Stay tuned for more health tips and tricks from your friendly neighborhood physiotherapy and osteopathy clinic!

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