If you have ever experienced pain in the middle of your shoulder blades, I’ve got good news for you. No matter how achy or out of reach it is, you can get rid of that annoying mid-back pain with 4 simple exercises.
Mid-Back Pain: The Where and the How
The term “mid-back” refers to the general area on your back where your shoulder blades meet. Oftentimes, with mid-back pain you may feel a lot of tightness along your paraspinal muscles, which are the muscles on either side of your spine. Other common sore spots include the rhomboid or middle trapezius between your shoulder blades.
Mid-back pain is usually a musculoskeletal issue. Your pain may indicate a muscle strain, irritation at one of the facet joints in the back, a broken rib, or even a herniated disc at the thoracic spine. So if you feel numbness or tingling in your back or radiating symptoms when you cough or sneeze, consult your doctor or PT.
Severe cases aside, there are many causes for mid-back pain. Yours could be the result of consistent poor posture or the response to a small trauma, such as a fall. Or, maybe you’ve overworked your back and strained the muscles. A little bit of each of these factors is a sure recipe for mid-back pain!
Treating your Mid-Back Pain
Mid-back pain is hard to reach, but it’s not necessarily hard to treat. First, if you can pinpoint the activity or habits that cause your pain, try to avoid them. You don’t want to worsen the problem and cause further pain.
However, rest isn’t a remedy by itself. You need to keep moving well – that’s what physical therapy is for. The right movements can help relieve pain, while proper stretches and exercises can help you overcome and even prevent future recurrences.
4 Ways to Knock Out Mid-Back Pain
If you’re feeling consistent, moderate mid-back pain, then the following exercises will help you find relief and gain strength. Again, check in with your body and stop these movements if you feel numbness or radiating pain.
1. Cat/Camel Stretch
Also called the “cat/cow” stretch, this first exercise is my go-to movement whenever I’m experiencing mid- or even low-back pain. Usually the Cat/Camel is performed on hands and knees, but you can try leaning on a countertop if you need a modified version.
With hands under shoulders, arch your back towards the ceiling like an angry cat – as far as you can go without feeling pain. Then reverse the curve in your back for your best camel impression, making it as flat as your pain allows.
Perform 6-8 repetitions 3 or 4 times throughout the day. I recommend immediately following the Cat/Camel with the next exercise.
2. Quadruped Rock Back
While still on your hands and knees (or against a countertop), rock your bottom back towards your feet. Make sure you maintain a neutral spine and flat back. You should start to feel a stretch in your mid and low back, but ease up if you feel any increased pain.
To achieve a deeper stretch, start by placing one hand on top of the other so that your arms make a crooked “V” in front of you. Then rock back, at a slight angle opposite your hands. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds on either side and repeat it 5 to 6 times throughout the day.
3. Resisted External Rotation
The muscles in the mid back are tricky to isolate, but by strengthening the nearby muscles, you can help support your back and shoulders. This third exercise does just that, targeting the muscles that support the rotator cuff.
Grab a resistance band with one end in both hands. (Psst – if you’re new to resistance bands, check out this article for the full scoop!) Hold your elbows at 90° and make sure they stay in contact with your torso throughout the exercise.
Next, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you rotate your arms to stretch the resistance band outwards. Briefly hold this external rotation for 1 to 2 seconds, then repeat 15-20 times. Try doing 3 or 4 sets of this exercise each day.
4. Use a Massage Gun
One of the fastest ways to find mid-back pain relief is to use a massage gun. I recommend having someone else massage the muscles between your shoulder blades – it’s much easier than trying to reach that spot on your own.
But if you cannot rely on someone for help, consider a massage gun with a longer handle, such as the new Bob and Brad X6 Pro massage gun. I recently started using this massage gun to relieve some soreness I had between my shoulder blades. Within two days, the muscle tightness had decreased significantly, and I was able to return to my normal exercise routine without any mid-back pain.
Summary: Mitigating Mid-Back Pain
Back pain isn’t fun, and if you struggle with mid-back pain often, it may be due to poor posture. Check out this article for exercises to improve your posture and get rid of that mid-back pain for good.