21 Best Stretches for Middle Back Pain Relief – Even Betty White Can Do It!

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Mid Back Stretches to Relieve Pain Betty White

I bet you already know that back surgery is hazardous. More than 70% of operations fail to solve the problem even with modern techniques.

While taking drugs will not only cost you a fortune, it might contain harmful chemicals as well. The good news is there’s a much simpler alternative like mid back stretches, and it will only cost you a minute and minimal effort.

According to one online poll, it is estimated that:

  • 80% of adults will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives
  • 57% of adults over the age of 60 currently suffer from chronic back pain
  • 20% of individuals under the age of 60 now suffer from chronic back pain
  • 33% of adults have a significant disk abnormality but are not experiencing any pain or symptoms

So how are we to interpret those statistics? In essence, the question is not if we will experience back pain, but when. It can be a result of or caused by many factors.

Ironically, back pain can result from too much activity or not enough. Some of the prominent causes of back pain include:

  • Herniated disks
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Arthritis

Middle Back Pain Prevention

What you do or don’t do can help prevent mid back pain or make it more likely to occur. For example, some of the conventional agitators of back pain include:

  • Prolonged sitting/standing
  • Certain sleeping positions (e.g., on your stomach)
  • Poor posture
  • Specific strength training exercises (e.g., back squat)

Specific strength training exercises can, in some cases, increase the risk of back pain or injury.

Precisely, those exercises that directly load the spine (e.g., back squat, deadlift, and power clean). They placed a significant amount of compression and shear forces on the intervertebral disks—especially when using heavyweight and performed improperly.

Although it would be unfair to classify these exercises as dangerous, it is essential to recognize that they pose a slightly higher risk for back pain.

If you suffer from chronic back pain, it may be worth considering either employing an alternate strength training exercise or performing a slight modification to specific activities. It will reduce the risk of injury and back pain.

For example, instead of doing back squats, you could employ front squats, Bulgarian split squats, lying leg press, or dumbbell lunges instead.

Additionally, you could deadlift using a trap bar with the weight elevated instead of deadlifting from the floor with a conventional straight bar.

You could also perform hang-cleans instead of power-cleans to avoid high-risk phases of movement and provide better back support.

How Can Poor Posture Result in Back Pain?

Another predominant agitator of back pain is poor posture. It only makes sense that keeping the spine flexed or overextended for a prolonged period will eventually lead to or exacerbate back pain.

poor posture

So how can you identify and correct for poor posture? Dr. Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist, a renowned strength and conditioning coach, and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard, recommends the two-hand rule and belly-whack test.

Follow the two steps below to perform the two-hand rule.

1.) Place one thumb on the xiphoid process (sternum)
2.) The other thumb on the iliac crest (top of the pelvis) with the fingers splayed—palms facing down and parallel with the floor.

two hand belly whack test

If the spine is in a neutral position, both hands are parallel. When the spine is flexed, the hands move closer together. When the spine is overextended, the hands move farther apart.

The two-hand rule is a simple method of bringing awareness to your spine’s current position and making adjustments as necessary.

The belly-whack test is another secure method of assessing your current posture. In essence, there is a certain amount of tension (albeit modest) required of the abdominal musculature to maintain a braced neutral spine.

Being able to take a quick whack to the belly ensures you have enough abdominal tension to support proper posture.

common misperceptions associated with back pain

As with graying hair and wrinkles, changes to the spine’s disks and bones are a natural part of the aging process and should be expected.

There are incremental changes that occur to the spine as part of the aging process. Even so, said changes do not necessarily equate to back pain or represent the cause of back pain.

vertebra anatomy

As depicted, several places within the bony structure of the vertebra could compress against the spine or nerve roots, thereby resulting in pain—for example, thickening of the pedicle, lamina, or hypertrophy of the facet joints.

All of these adaptations are possible as a result of regular participation in strength training. In other words, said adjustments in and of themselves are not necessarily harmful.

But when combined with age-related disk abnormalities may result in acute or chronic back pain.

According to current research, nearly 100% of all adults have some form of “spinal abnormality.” That said, just because you have a spinal abnormality does not guarantee that you will have back pain. Similarly, it is also possible to have back pain without a documented spinal deformity (as seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)).

So what does that mean? In essence, we cannot rely solely on MRI results to determine whether we should have back pain.

MRI findings can sometimes help both the patient and physician to believe that these so-called “abnormalities” are responsible for back pain when, in fact, they are not.

The following chart shows the relationship between age and the percentage of individuals with no back pain. Still, it has a documented disk abnormality, as depicted on an MRI.

patient abnormalities

It is also important to remember that although MRI results provide an extremely detailed picture of the disks and bones of the spine, they are not without their limitations.

For example, MRI pictures are taken while the patient is lying down; however, the patient’s pain may only occur when sitting or performing precise movements.

In other words, the underlying cause of the pain may not be able to be detected by the MRI while the patient is lying down.

Additionally, and in most cases, back pain will resolve on its own within a couple of weeks. So seeking invasive treatment options (e.g., corticosteroid injections, surgery) immediately upon the onset of back pain may not be necessary.

Individuals may want to consider more invasive options when they have associated pain, numbness, or weakness in the same nerve-related pathway as indicated by the MRI.

If there is only back pain but no associated weakness, pain, numbness, or reflex changes, then the disk abnormality is unlikely, causing a severe problem.

Unfortunately, most people prefer to formally treat their back pain vice simply receive reassurance that it will get better on its own.

Ironically, receiving verbal reassurance vice unnecessary MRIs and treatments could save them a bundle in terms of future medical costs and pain.

Instead, most of what patients should and can address or prevent back pain is independent of their actual MRI results.

21 Easy to Follow Mid Back Stretches, Strength Training, Mobility Exercises to Relieve Pain

Although most physicians may recommend scheduling an MRI or treatment options for a few weeks, very few, if any, suggest remaining utterly stationary in the interim.

For example, Dr. Kelly Starrett recommends that individuals get up and stand every 10-15 minutes to avoid prolonged sitting.

Additionally, he recommends four minutes of mobility work for continuous sitting every 30 minutes. When daily mobility work is not an option (e.g., long car rides), Dr. Starrett recommends using some lumbar support to help give support and keep the back in a better position.

In terms of back pain recovery and prevention, getting up and performing regular movement is paramount. Action helps to loosen the muscles, prevent unnecessary loss of ROM, and bring blood and nutrients to the area to facilitate healing.

The specific recommendations for exercise type, frequency, volume, and intensity will likely differ for individuals suffering from acute vice chronic back pain.

In both instances, individuals are encouraged to regularly perform a variety of strength training exercises, mobility exercises, and stretches.

The diagram below will show you the basic mid back stretches, strength training exercises, and mobility exercises. These simple exercises can be performed with minimal training and without equipment.

It is recommended that these exercises be performed at least once daily (more if tolerated). If you are frequently suffering from back pain, it is essential not to be overly aggressive when performing said exercises. Doing so might lead to the worsening of pain or symptoms. 

Instead, you can do the following.

  • Perform a low-intensity warm-up (e.g., slow walk, stationary bike, elliptical trainer) for 10-15 minutes 
  • Followed by 3-5 strength training exercises
  • Followed by 3-5 mobility exercises 2-5 minutes each
  • Followed by 3-5 stretches for 30-90 seconds (or longer as tolerated).

Eventually (e.g., a few days to weeks), the pain should begin to lessen or subside altogether. Ironically, individuals often reduce the frequency of performing said exercises and stretches or stopped them entirely as they start to feel better. It is not recommended. 

The unfortunate reality with back pain relief is that it is transient and reversible. If regular strength training and mobility work are not performed, the benefits of and results from said training will slowly start to diminish and eventually dissipate altogether over time.

5 Back Strength Training Exercises

Plank

Plank Beginner

Beginner

Plank Intermediate / Advanced

Intermediate / Advanced

Plank Runners

Plank Runners Beginner

Beginner

Plank Runners Advanced

Intermediate / Advanced

Side Planks

Side Planks Beginner

Beginner

Side Planks Advanced

Intermediate / Advanced

Glute Bridges

Glute Bridges Beginner

Beginner

Glute Bridges Advanced

Intermediate / Advanced

Bird Dogs

Bird Dog Beginner

Beginner

Bird Dog Advanced

Intermediate / Advanced

6 Back and Hip Mobility Exercises

Cow to Cat Pose

Cow to Cat Pose

Child’s to Cobra Pose

Child to Cobra Pose

Rocking (Forward & Back) Frog Pose

Rocking Frog Pose

Squat to Hip Hinge

Squat to Hip Hinge

Alternating Side Lunges

Alternating Side Lunges

Rocking (Forward & Back) Single Leg Flexion w/ External Rotation

Rocking Single Leg Flexion

10 Back and Hip Stretches

Cobra

Cobra Stretch

Pigeon

Pigeon Stretch

Lying Knee Hug

Lying Knee Hug Stretch

Kneeling Hip Flexor

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Piriformis

Piriformis

Lizard

Lizard Stretch

Back Twist

Lower Back Twist

Groin

Groin Stretch

Modified Hurdler

Modified Hurdler

Lateral Hip Opener

Lateral Hip Opener

Dr. Sandra Johnson received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from Cornell University. She then went on to graduate studies at New York University before attending Rice University School of Medicine, where she graduated with an M.D. degree. She completed her training in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for internship and residency programs. Dr. Johnson went on to Harvard University in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, completing her residency program. Dr. Johnson is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.