Back pain is all too common these days.
But, why does it appear? If you are an active person working out frequently at the gym and also having proper eating habits and good technique at the gym what is the cause?
A patient of mine has been having upper back and neck pains for a couple of years without giving it too much thought. He really loved to bench press. He bench pressed almost double his body weight.
But here comes the problem, he ONLY bench pressed. He didn’t do any other exercises.
How is that a problem?Let’s understand agonist/antagonist relationship:
He didn’t work out the antagonists of the muscles he was working while benching .
While bench pressing we are using our pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachi, anterior deltoid .
The role of the pecs are to adduct the arms(bring the arms towards the medial line of the body) ,rotate the arms and help in the inhailing movement of the torso, and if the arm is fixed grabing to something it helps in climbing.
The antagonist muscles to this action are the middle fibers of the trapezius and the rhomboid major and minor.
The pectoralis minor also depresses the scapula, or shoulder blade, states the American Council on Exercise. This is seen when people lower their shoulder blades. The antagonist muscles to this action are the levator scapulae and the trapezius.
My patient worked only his agonists without working his antagonists and got so strong that his antagonists had to work even when he was standing casually at the desk only to support a correct posture.
He went to a few massage sessions that relaxed his upper back muscles. Do you see the problem yet?
The muscles were tense for a reason ,the body is not creating tension where it does need it, it’s not stupid.
It ameliorated the pain for the moment only to come back.
Here i came in with my fix for his back pain : stretch the pecs ,as they are tense and shortened and put tension on the back for that reason ,and let’s shorten the upper back which is already too elongated from the strain of the pecs.
While doing these stretches keep your shoulder fixed as it is easier to let the shoulder move forward and you won’t be stretching the pectoralis anymore.
While doing the ball stretch put pressure on the fibers of the pectoralis major and minor to relax it and keep the presure 30s where you feel the spot most tender ,repeat until it is relaxed.
Upper back strengthen exercises:
All exercises that pull the scapulas towards the spine work the rhomboids ,these 2 are just examples of that action.
The dumbbell exercises can be done single handedly or both handed.
There may also be that:
The upper traps may be over active and the lower trapezius too weak which will be the cause of your back pain.
The upper trapezius could comp
ensate for weak upward rotators such as serratus anterior.
The upper trapezius could be having a balance issue with the pec minor.
These are some of the many causes of upper back pain.
Here is a good stretching exercise for the upper trapezius.
A good exercise for the lower trapezius would be this one:
-lift your torso 2-5 cm off the ground with pulling your shoulders back when up
-look straigth down ,don’t contract the neck in the extension
-don’t go more than 5 cm or you will target the lumbar muscles.