10 Simple Ways to Find Relief from Upper Back Pain


Upper back pain is an extremely common problem that affects people of all ages. The upper back area includes the region below the neck down to the bottom of the ribcage. There are many potential causes of upper back discomfort such as poor posture, muscle strain, injuries, arthritis, and more. The good news is that there are also a variety of simple and effective ways to get relief from upper back pain at home. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 easy tips that you can try to reduce and manage upper back pain.

Establish Good Posture

Having good posture is one of the most important things you can do to avoid and alleviate upper back pain. Slouching, hunching over, or having your neck bent forward for long periods puts strain on your upper back muscles, ligaments, and vertebrae. Make an effort to align your ears over your shoulders and avoid rounding your shoulders. Use good posture when sitting at a desk, looking at your phone, driving, and performing other daily activities. Consider using a posture brace or back support if you have difficulty maintaining proper posture.

Stretch the Upper Back

Gentle stretching is highly beneficial for loosening tight back muscles and reducing muscle tension that contributes to back pain. Simple stretches for the upper back you can do at home include shoulder rolls, shoulder blade squeezes, and arm crosses. Try doing a few upper back stretches first thing in the morning, after long periods of sitting, or before bedtime. Yoga poses like the cat-cow pose and sphinx pose also provide great upper back extensions.

Apply Heat Therapy

The application of heat is an effective way to relax tense muscles and increase blood flow to ease upper back pain. Take a warm shower, use a heating pad on the sore area, or try a hot water bottle or microwavable heat wrap. Heat therapy boosts circulation, reduces stiffness, and encourages recovery. Use heat for 20 minutes several times per day to relieve discomfort. Just be careful not to burn yourself.

Use Cold Therapy

Alternating heat with cold therapy can also be helpful for upper back relief. Applying something cold like an ice pack constricts blood vessels and reduces inflammation that may be causing pain. Use an ice pack, cooling gel pack, or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel on the sore upper back area for up to 20 minutes a few times a day. You can alternate using heat and ice therapy for optimal benefits.

Massage the Upper Back

Massaging the upper back is an easy DIY solution for pain relief. You can use a self-massage tool like a foam roller or back massager, or simply use your hands to massage sore muscles. Have a partner give you a massage by applying gentle pressure and working out knots in the upper back, neck, and shoulders. Massaging increases blood flow, relaxes muscles, and releases endorphins for natural pain relief.

Perform Upper Back Exercises

It may seem counterintuitive, but doing exercises that strengthen the upper back can actually help reduce pain by improving posture and balance. Try exercises like shoulder blade squeezes, rows, and wall angels which target the upper back muscles. Make sure to start with low weights or resistance bands and stop any exercise that increases pain. Doing a few upper back exercises 2-3 times per week can help build strength and prevent future discomfort.

Use Over-the-Counter Medications

For temporary relief from upper back pain, you can use oral over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are commonly used for reducing pain and inflammation. Always follow dosage directions and do not exceed recommended amounts or usage duration. Check with your doctor before taking any medication, especially if you take other medicines or have liver/stomach issues.

Apply a Topical Pain Reliever

Applying a topical pain relief gel, cream, or patch directly on the upper back can provide localized pain relief without systemic effects. Look for topical pain relievers containing ingredients like menthol, camphor, lidocaine, capsaicin, or salicylates which provide a cooling or heating sensation to distract from pain. Use a topical analgesic a few times per day according to package directions. This can be done along with oral medications and other pain relief therapies.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Chronic stress and muscle tension can increase upper back discomfort. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation help relieve stress so that back muscles can release. For example, inhale deeply and exhale slowly while consciously relaxing each muscle group in your upper back and shoulders. Schedule time daily to practice relaxation techniques for whole body stress and pain relief.

Make Lifestyle Adjustments

Making certain lifestyle adjustments can really help reduce upper back pain episodes and severity. Evaluate your workspace ergonomics, posture, sleeping position, and exercise routine. Reduce repetitive stress, strain, and poor posture during daily activities. Maintain a healthy weight to avoid excess pressure on the back. Also be mindful of your diet, activity level, smoking, and stress levels which influence pain. Making positive lifestyle modifications minimizes risk factors for upper back pain.


Upper back pain is extremely prevalent today, but there are many ways to find relief without extensive medical intervention. Applying heat or cold therapy, performing massages, taking OTC medication, doing gentle stretches and exercises, utilizing relaxation techniques, and adjusting lifestyle habits are simple yet effective ways to manage upper back discomfort at home. Implement a variety of these tips to determine which provide you with the most relief. See a doctor if your upper back pain persists or worsens despite home treatment. With some patience and consistency using these methods, you’ll likely find your upper back pain improving.

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