Upper-Back Mobility Might Be Behind Your Lower-Back Pain — These 3 Exercises Can Help

There are many different causes of lower-back pain, but one surprising culprit actually involves your upper back. That's right: limited mobility in your upper back can lead to compensation and overuse of your lower back, causing soreness there, according to Dr. Cameron Yuen, PT, DPT, of Bespoke Treatments.

In fact, your upper back is an integral meeting point for several different important joints in your body.

It is connected to your shoulder blades, ribs, lumbar spine, and cervical spine, so in addition to causing lower back pain, limited thoracic spine mobility also affects your range of motion in these areas. One real-life way this might manifest is difficulty reaching overhead to grab things from a high shelf.

Luckily, there are some simple drills you can do at home to alleviate stiffness and improve rotation in your upper back. Dr. Yuen demonstrates three of them in a recent video on the Bespoke Treatments Instagram page. Try them out for yourself by following the instructions below, quoted from the caption of the post, but remember to stop if you are experiencing any pain.

Dr. Yuen recommends doing one to two sets of 15-20 reps of each move.

Assisted Thoracic Extension

"Sit back on your heels in a quadruped position, with a band around your shoulder blades. Perform the standard cat cow exercise and let the band pull you into extension. Remember to breathe!"

Quadruped Thoracic Rotation

"Sit back on your heels, and place your hand behind your ear. Try to keep the low back stable as you rotate to the ceiling. Remember to breathe!"

Bonus! Dr. Yuen told POPSUGAR that this exercise can also be used as a test of your upper-back mobility with a minor adjustment.

Instead of placing your free hand behind your ear, place it behind your lower back. Rotate to the ceiling as illustrated in the video, and you should be able to achieve approximately 50 degrees of motion from horizontal (your starting position) to the collar bones. If you can't reach this range of motion, you should especially consider practicing these drills.

Kettlebell Armbar

"While lying on your back, press a light kettlebell overhead, and roll to your side with your top knee bent to 90 degrees. If this position feels good, you can try progressing the movement by keeping your low back flat and rolling to your stomach."

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