7 Great Stretches for Your Mid-Back

Your mid-back does a lot of work throughout the day—here are a few easy stretches to soothe and strengthen it.

woman stretching in doorway
Photo: Kailey Whitman

Americans sit more than they should—according to a JAMA study, the average daily time spent sitting for adults increased to 6.4 hours between 2007 and 2016. Excessive sitting has been linked to numerous chronic health issues, and it can also affect your posture—and even small shifts in posture can strain your middle back, making it tight and even achy at times. "Many people suffer from issues related to middle back pain, making it a real concern," says Steve Knauf, DC, executive director of Chiropractic and Compliance at The Joint Chiropractic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Back pain occurring anywhere between the bottom of your rib cage and base of your neck is considered middle back pain. Numerous causes of this type of pain can be at play. Chief among them are postural issues and weakened abdominals. "Rounding your shoulders, having a forward head posture, and carrying excessive weight around your stomach can all lead to an increased curve of your mid-back," Knauf says. That increased curve can increase the amount of pressure on your spine, leading your back, even the middle part, to wind up stiffening.

If your mid-back tension is due to poor posture or lack of motion, stretching can be an effective relief strategy, Knauf says. Of course, if you're experiencing not only tightness, but also pain, discuss your symptoms with your doctor before you jump into a stretching program. Below are seven stretches that help increase mobility, undo tightness, and hopefully reduce some pain in the mid-back area. They provide awesome benefits even if you don't suffer from tightness at the moment. "Stretching the mid-back without the presence of pain is important in maintaining good posture and an appearance of confidence," says Mara Kimowitz, owner of StretchSource in Boonton, N.J. It can help you develop good habits and prevent pain from starting in the future. Do these seven stretches as frequently as you'd like, even just performing one at a time if that's all your schedule allows.

Mid-Back Stretches to Try

01 of 07

Cat Cow

Mid-Back Stretch cat-cow stretch
Kailey Whitman

Start on the floor on your hands and knees, aligning hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips. On an inhale, slowly arch your back and hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Exhale and release that position, slowly round your back, bringing your navel in and your chin gently to your chest, and hold for another 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat as many times as needed.

02 of 07

Pec Stretch

Mid-Back Stretch pec stretch in door frame
Kailey Whitman

Stand either in a corner between two walls or in an open doorway. Place hands on the wall or door jamb on either side of you, keeping them at eye level. Step forward until you feel a stretch in chest muscles. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and breathe deeply throughout.

03 of 07

Elbow Opener

Mid-Back Stretch elbow opener stretch
Kailey Whitman

Sit in a chair with your entire back against the back, or on the floor with back against the wall. Place hands behind your head with elbows touching each other in front of your face. Slowly pull elbows apart, making sure your back and head remain against the chair. Once you can no longer open them any further, hold 15 to 30 seconds. Return elbows to starting position and repeat as needed.

04 of 07


Mid-Back Stretch superman
Kailey Whitman

Stand with your arms straight out in front at chest level. Clasp fingers together and flip hands away from you. Without shrugging shoulders, drop head between arms. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat as needed.

05 of 07

Chest Opener

Mid-Back Stretch chest opener stretch
Kailey Whitman

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and clasp your hands behind your back. Without arching your back, gently roll your shoulders back and down. Straighten your arms as much as you can and press your clasped hands back and down toward the floor, reach them away from you. As you do this, lift your chest to the ceiling (being careful not to arch your lower back). Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat as needed.

06 of 07

Flat Back

Mid-Back stretch flat back stretch with table
Kailey Whitman

Stand facing a desk or counter with your hands on the surface. Keeping hands on the surface, slowly walk feet away from the desk/table/counter until you can hinge forward at the hips and form an "L" with your body: Legs should be straight (with slight bend—no locking the knees); back should be flat and parallel to the floor; and arms should be straight with hands placed on the counter surface. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat as necessary.

07 of 07

Needle and Thread

Mid-Back stretch needle and thread floor stretch
Kailey Whitman

Start on the floor on all fours, with hands aligned under shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale and lift your right hand up toward the ceiling, gently twisting your torso to the right. Exhale and rotate back to center, then thread your right arm into the space between your left hand and knee, to the point where you can lower your right shoulder and ear to the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

RELATED: 5 Standing Ab Exercises You Can Do (Almost) Anywhere

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  1. Yang L, Cao C, Kantor ED, Nguyen LH, et al. Trends in sedentary behavior among the US population, 2001-2016. JAMA. 2019;23;321(16):1587-1597. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.3636

  2. Citko A, Górski S, Marcinowicz L, Górska A. Sedentary lifestyle and nonspecific low back pain in medical personnel in north-east PolandBiomed Res Int. 2018;2018:1965807. doi:10.1155/2018/1965807

  3. Singla D, Veqar Z. Association between forward head, rounded shoulders, and increased thoracic kyphosis: a review of the literatureJ Chiropr Med. 2017;16(3):220-229. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2017.03.004

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