Stuck in the middle with you … Exercises for pain between shoulder blades [2022].

Strengthening the upper mid back | Arana Hills Physiotherapy

Pain between shoulder blades or upper back

A very common issue that we see in the clinic is people who either have stiffness or pain in their upper thoracic spine. That’s the bit where our shoulder blades are found, and are between the neck and low back. Usually for people who have these problems we find that there is a combination of lack of movement and weakness around the periscapular muscles.

Certainly they lack endurance in these muscles and feel tired and ache after a long day in the office or working around the house.

The anatomy of the upper back

Here’s a look at the muscles that make up the upper thoracic spine and attach to your neck and shoulder.

upper mid back diagram | Arana Hills Physiotherapy

These muscles are important for shoulder pain, neck pain and pain between spine and shoulder blades.

The muscles that attach to the shoulder blade can be highly influential in the health of your shoulder and neck. If these muscles are weak or lack endurance then it affects the way the scapula moves and can influence shoulder pain.

In fact it was once termed UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME by a neurologist Vladimir Janda. This really is just a fancy way to say that often people were stronger in their chest muscles than the upper back muscles and it may influence their shoulder and neck function.

We often see weakness in these muscles with people suffering with both neck and shoulder pain. A friend of mine who worked in professional rugby often got the players to focus on doing as much strengthening for these muscles as they did for the arms or chest in an attempt to prevent shoulder issues.

In fact if they did complain of shoulder pain, they stopped pressing and worked on pulling movements.

As such they are often a target of effective rehabilitation and prevention of shoulder or neck pain.

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Getting upper back muscles stronger can help the low back pain.

An observation that I’ve made when treating people for persistent low back pain is the way they “round” their upper back when lifting or using their arms. This seems to be especially true if they are taller.

The consequence of this is that it then seems to result in them being less able to maintain more efficient postures when they have to:

  • Lifting objects or their children / grandchildren
  • Sit or stand for periods of time.
  • Doing house hold chores.
  • Squatting or deadlifting in the gym.
  • Cyclists, swimmers and rowers.

Exercises to strengthen the upper back muscles .

The muscles we want to focus on are generally trained by using rowing or pulling type movements. So its time to get some rowing into your life with these selections of exercises:

Level 1: no equipment series.


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Level 2: resistance exercises scapular strength.


Level 3: crossover symmetry / theraband exercises for scapular strength 

Hope you find this useful and if you or anyone you know has problems with their neck , shoulders or upper back and need some guidance we’d love to help.


If you have any issues with upper back pain you can book here to see one of the team

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