Breathing Exercises for Upper Back Pain

Self Care – Breathing exercise for upper back pain

I have many clients who come to me for problems in their upper back. Some have “forward head posture.” Some have that sharp stitch when they take a breath. Some have pain between the shoulder blades. Some just have tightness and discomfort.

I have given this technique to a lot of people with great results. I have even given this to my ALS clients, and they find that it increases their vital capacity when they get tested, if they do this regularly. Really.

It is simple and easy to do. It doesn’t require some expensive piece of equipment. The greatest stumbling block for people is the first process of wrapping two magazines together with tape.

line - black 400Creating the magazine rolls.

20160618_150302All that you need is a stack of magazines and some duct tape (or Duck Tape as they call it at Wal-Mart).

line - black 40020160618_151028In this case, I used 4-5 Time magazines to create each roll. Other magazines work. 4-5 Time magazines are a pretty hefty roll, but I’m using it with my padded massage table. Some of my clients that are not very muscular prefer a smaller roll to use on a hardwood floor.

line - black 40020160618_151202I compared my second  roll to my first roll before I taped it. I had to use 4 magazines instead of 5 to get a similar size because one magazine was a thicker, special edition.

Then I simply “Duck Taped” the two rolls together.

Not Crafty?

You can also just buy this back stretcher from Amazon. It’s a little better than similar models that don’t come with the pad and ball.

line - black 400The Process.

This is a simple process but requires patience and focus, at first.

Lay on the magazines so that the groove between the magazines lays under the center of your spine. Position the top of the magazines so that they come to the top of your shoulder. Breathe slowly for 8-10 minutes.

  1. Breathe in until you feel the tension in your back.
  2. Let it out until you reach the relaxed point.
  3. Slowly force out a little more air until you feel tension in your back again.
  4. Let the air back in.
  5. Go back to step #1

Don’t do this quickly or aggressively. It will make it less effective, if you do. Expect some joints to release and muscles to relax. Your posture will probably straighten a little. You’ll breathe easier. When I refer to this post from other posts about a particular problem, I’ll talk about the effects in more detail.

Also, try to avoid pulling your collarbone and chest up toward your head as you breathe in. That uses your scalenes and creates some thoracic outlet tension. When done correctly, this exercise should reduce thoracic outlet tension. Instead, focus on breathing so that your abdomen fills and your ribs expand out on the sides. It will seem awkward a first, but you’ll get it.

line - black 400The Video

Here’s a video of me instructing someone to do this breathing exercise with the magazines.

breathing on magazines - vid cap

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients.

He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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