10 Yoga Postures for Upper Back Pain

Any sort of pain or tension in your back can be very frustrating. I find upper back pain to be the most irritating. Especially when you’re not sure what caused it and how to cure it. It can be an enduring pain too, if not handled correctly. 

You can consider many solutions, including seeing a physiotherapist or homeopath, using home-remedies like ice or heat packs, pain medicine, muscle relaxers etc. However, these options can turn out to be costly and provide only temporary relief.

Why not try yoga? You can do it anywhere, anytime and it’s totally free (unless you want to join a class). I’ve tried and tested 10 yoga postures that are beginner-friendly and have helped me in taking care of stubborn upper back pain.

A Closer Look at Upper Back Pain

How do you know if the back pain you’re experiencing is in the upper, middle, or lower back? It’s simple. Your upper back consists of the first 12 bones right under the base of your neck. The first bone being inline with your shoulders and the last one being in line with the bottom of your ribcage. We call this area your Thoracic spine.

What causes Upper Back Pain?

There are various factors that can be to blame for pain in your Thoracic spine, I present the most common reasons below.

Bad Posture-Lack of exercise 
-Sitting for long periods of time at a desk or in front of a TV
-Slouching weakens back muscles which cause pain
Overworking Muscles-Professional sport (repetitive motions can strain the back)
-Overuse of muscles (not enough rest between workouts)
-Extreme or incorrect heavy lifting of weights
Injury or Illness-Car or work-related accidents
-Slipping, falling etc.
-Osteoarthritis, Herniated disc, pinched nerve etc.
Psychological Factors -Stress
-Sleeping problems/uncomfortable bed
-Traumatic experiences causing stress and tension
Common causes of upper back pain

Who Suffers from Upper Back Pain?

Women are more likely to suffer from upper back pain than men. A study in Occupational Medicine indicates 1 out of every 10 men and 1 out of every 5 women might suffer from upper back pain. 

Another study conducted in France about various professions indicated that 9% of men and 17% of women suffered from some degree of back pain in their day-to-day lives.

The exact reason why women suffer from back pain more than men are not clear. However, it has something to do with the result of pregnancy, pelvic structure and hormone differences between men and women.

Yoga Postures for Upper Back Pain

Yoga in general is great for relieving and healing all kinds of uncomfortable human conditions. I found these 10 yoga postures to be especially good for upper back pain. Let’s dig right in!

  1. Cat – Cow Pose
  2. Baby Cobra
  3. Puppy Pose
  4. Seated Spinal Twist
  5. Bridge Pose
  6. Rabbit Pose
  7. Seated Forward Fold
  8. Child’s Pose
  9. Forward Fold with Clasped Hands
  10. Corpse Pose

Cat – Cow Pose

One of the best yoga postures for upper back pain! This dual posture is a really gentle way to wake up the spine and get oxygen flowing to your vertebrae. Make sure to move with slow, wave-like movements from Cat to Cow. Keep each pose for about 15 seconds and repeat both 5 times. If you’re feeling wild, you can add Thread the Needle too!

Baby Cobra

This is the more gentle variation of the full Cobra. I love this posture because not only does it soothe the Thoracic spine, but it also strengthens it. I firmly believe that the best prevention for any sort of back pain is strong muscles. And some yoga postures strengthen your back in order to relieve upper back pain.

Keep this posture for about 20 seconds, you can repeat it 3 times from laying face down to Baby Cobra a few times if you wish. Make sure you move one vertebra at a time, slowly.

Puppy Pose

This posture can seem pretty advanced to the untrained eye, but it can be done by anyone. The trick is to find your sweet spot. Always perform this pose with caution, it shouldn’t hurt at all.

I love doing this posture after a long day of sitting in front of my desk. It really counters the seated position you’re in on a chair. You’ll want to make sure your hips are always above your knees and that your hands aren’t too far away. 

From all fours position, reach both your hands as far as possible to the front of your mat, away from your body. You must still be able to hold that position comfortably, so don’t reach too far. When you’re ready, just lower your chest to the floor. Keep this pose for 10-30 seconds. Repeat if you wish.

Seated Spinal Twist

This is great for when you feel there’s areas in your spine that hold a lot of tension and no matter what you do you just can’t release it. From the neutral spine, use your arm and elbow to twist your spine slowly. Don’t worry if you feel some cracks here and there, it’s normal and feels great afterwards! Repeat this on both sides and how many times you need to until your spine feels relieved.

Bridge Pose

This one also looks a bit daunting, until you do it and feel the release, then you’ll love it! If you can’t grab your ankles yet, don’t worry, just lay with your palms flat on the ground as close to your ankles as possible. Lift your hips to the sky and curve your back. You’ll also feel this in your shoulders. Keep for anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds. Repeat if you enjoyed it too much.

Rabbit Pose

This is a more unknown yoga pose, but it is incredible. This really helps you stretch out the top of your Thoracic spine – a part that is tricky to stretch sometimes. By placing the crown of your head on the floor, you control how far you want to bend over and stretch the spine. Listen to your body and enjoy! Keep for 15 seconds and repeat only once if necessary.

Seated Forward Fold

An all time favorite. I love this posture because it almost feels like you’re a human rack. I’m not that flexible, so I like to bend from my hips and grab the souls of my feet. This releases a lot of tension between each vertebra through a gentle pulling sensation. This pose can be kept for longer periods of time if you wish. Anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat if you like.

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose basks in great fame for a reason, it’s highly relaxing! There’s just something about laying down your upper body over your bent legs in an upward fetal position that releases stress almost immediately. You can keep this for 3 hours. Kidding. Your legs would go completely numb. Keep it for 20-40 seconds. You can go up to a minute if you want.

Forward Fold with Clasped Hands

This variation of the Standing Forward Fold is great because it targets the Thoracic spine and shoulders quite well. From standing up right, interlace your fingers behind your back and start folding. Let your arms and clasped hand follow until they can’t reach lower. Stay in this position for 20-40 seconds. Come up really slow one vertebra at a time.

Corpse Pose

What better way to end your Upper Back Yoga Session? Not only does this posture calm the body and mind, but it also enhances absorption of benefits from prior postures. Laying flat on your back like this puts your spine in a neutral position and causes the spine to realign.

Don’t burden yourself with back pain that you can get rid of with these simple yoga postures that will take less than 30 minutes to do. Stretch and strengthen your muscles so that you can get busy with life and all of its adventures again. Try these yoga postures for upper back pain and feel the difference!

Isabel Ludick
Isabel is an avid yoga practitioner, who loves travelling, living life to the fullest, and cats. She loves living healthy and inspiring others to be the best they can be. When she's not performing her asanas or writing, you can find her at exquisite wine tastings around the world.