Stretches for Mid Back Pain

We have listed the best stretches for the variety of middle back pain causes. We have compiled the top stretches, yoga poses, and movements for muscular pain in the middle back.

Whether you just slept funny or you strained a muscle working out and the pain is unbearable, these will have your mid back loosening up in no time. Soon, you’ll be back to feeling good and moving your body the way it was meant to. First, let’s talk about which type of mid back pain stretching can help with.

What types of mid back pain can stretching help?

Mid back pain can be caused by many different things because there are a lot of different components in your back. Your spine is a complex system of bones, joints, and nerves, and a lot can go wrong there.

There are also lots of muscles in your middle back, such as your spinal erectors, lats, traps, and more.

More often than not, stretching is only beneficial for muscular-related pain. Stretching for a spinal injury will still help loosen the area up and grant temporary relief. However, it typically won’t heal the injury. 

For that, you’ll need to see a chiropractor, physical therapist or a doctor to come up with a treatment plan that includes spine manipulation, massage, stretching, exercise, and anti-inflammatories.

How can you tell if back pain is muscular?

Usually, it will be pretty apparent if the back pain is muscular or spinal based on the sensations you’re feeling. If it’s a dull, achy pain, it is likely a strained or pulled back muscle of some sort.

When you push on or massage the painful area, you’ll be able to feel muscle mass. With that said, however, spine problems can actually lead to muscular pain in the long term. So, it can be tough to distinguish between the two. See a doctor if you are unsure.

The best stretches for mid back pain

There are so many different stretches and poses that can relieve mid back pain. Try them all, pick your favorites, and come up with a regimen you can stick to. Or, alternate between certain stretches on different days throughout the week to keep it fresh!

Cat cow

steve performing cat cow neck upright
Steve demonstrating cat cow pose neck down

This is one of the easiest, most basic stretches for mid back pain there is. Cat Cow is a super simple yoga pose that loosens up the entire back.

  • Get on your hands and knees, in a shoulder width position with your back flat. Start with the cat portion of the stretch.
  • Arch your back upwards, similar to how a cat stretches. Imagine there is a string around the center of your back, and the string is being pulled straight up.
  • Hold this position, before beginning the second part – the cow stretch. Here, you will arch the exact opposite way. Imagine your stomach is being pulled towards the floor, with your upper back and glutes arching towards the ceiling to create a ‘U’ shape.
  • Do this for around 30 seconds at a time, going back and forth between cat/cow. You should feel your spine opening up, as the muscles around it loosen.

Passive Backbend

Passive Backbend For Back Pain

This stretch involves a foam roller, so unless you have one or are willing to buy one, this may not be one for you. For a less intense stretch, you can also use a yoga mat or towel, rolled up.

This is a great way to stretch the middle and upper back, while increasing thoracic mobility.

Lie flat on your back with your prop resting against your shoulder blades – close to your mid back. Feel yourself sink into it, as your thoracic spine stretches over it. This will open up your middle back, and relieve tons of tension.

Seated twist

Steve demonstrating seated spinal twist

This particular stretch for mid back pain is a great way to release your mid back muscles. Sit criss-cross on the floor, or in a chair to start.

Stay upright, and maintain this position throughout the stretch without hunching or arching – you want a neutral spine.

Place your right hand behind you, and anchor it to pull yourself around, while placing your left hand on your right knee to secure yourself in this twisted position. Start with conservative twists and find your comfort zone, so you don’t risk injury or further strain.

Once you are anchored, you can turn your head towards the direction you are twisting to intensify the stretch in your traps. After 10-20 seconds, repeat on the other side.

Cobra pose

The cobra pose is a really popular yoga pose for beginners who report tight lower/middle backs.

  • Start by laying face down on the floor with your hands under your shoulders.
  • The top of your feet should be flat on the floor as well.
  • Push up through your arms to lift your upper body off the floor. Squeeze your glutes and exhale while going up to brace your spine. Hold this position for around 20-30 seconds before returning back to the floor.

Thread the needle

piriformis stretch

This is one of  the most advanced stretches for mid back pain we will show you. It is a bit complicated, so you may want to watch a video of someone performing this before attempting yourself.

  • Start on your hands and needs similar to cat cow. Walk your hands out in front of you until they are in front of your shoulders, almost past your head.
  • Take your left hand and reach under yourself across your chest, towards your right shoulder, allowing your left shoulder to slowly sink to the floor.
  • While doing this, your right hand should remain flat on the floor. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and then push yourself back up to the starting position and switch sides.

Photo of author

Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

Recommended Articles