Remedies That Help With Pain

5 Easy Middle Back Pain Exercises

May 2nd, 2018

Middle back pain exercise infographic

Middle back pain can often be the result of poor posture throughout the day, as well as weakened core muscles that don’t properly support the spine. Not only do strong core muscles decrease middle back pain by helping support the spine, a strong core also helps encourage good posture.

Chronic pain affects a large part of the population all across the world, and chronic back pain is the most common debilitating condition in the world. It is also one of the most common complaints to physicians from all adults in the United States. 1 People reported back pain for several reasons: Around a quarter believe their back pain was from work, another quarter believed weak muscles and lack of exercises was the cause of their pain. Interestingly, almost a third of subjects reported they believed their pain was caused related to stress but almost all just want to know what helps relieve back pain.

Over fifty percent of the population reported having back pain or neck pain for longer than five years in 2017. 1 That is a substantial portion of the population, which means a large percentage of the work force is affected by everyday back pain. Over thirty percent of adult women also reported lower back pain specifically. Lower back pain and middle back issues are often related since pain in the spine is often referred, as well as pain elsewhere in the body can be referred pain from the spine. Referred pain from middle back problems usually include muscle tension and spasms in the mid back, as well as pain that can radiate into the abdomen and chest wall. 2

Most often, middle back pain is caused by poor posture, as well as muscle strain from overuse, and injury to the area. Some other causes include fracture as well as osteoarthritis in the spine. There are rare cases in which pain can be caused by something more serious like cancers that involve tumors near or on the spine. There are also some uncommon infection that cause back pain. If you notice pain that lasts longer than a few days, see your doctor and ask what helps back pain. It could be more than a simple backache. 

Physical therapy and back pain exercises can offer a substantial amount of relief without the side effects of medications often prescribed for middle back pain. Tricyclic antidepressants are often prescribed for chronic pain due to their low potential for abuse and wide array of benefits. However, there are also many side effects to these kinds of medications. Tricyclic antidepressant such as Elavil or Trazodone often cause drowsiness, restlessness, dizziness, urinary retention, constipation, tremors, weight gain, low sex drive and even more. Less common but more serious side effect include new or worsening depression, thoughts of suicide, and prolonged depressive phases. 3

There are a variety of middle back pain exercises that can alleviate pain both immediately as well as encourage good muscle health, which will also help with a strong, upright posture. The core is crucial because it is the foundation for the most weight from your spine while you are sitting. Strong core muscles and well as mid back stretches can assist with back pain that occurs from sitting all day, especially middle back pain, which often gets worse the longer one remains seated.

Middle Back Pain Exercises

Middle back pain exercise, man in pain

With the benefits of physical therapy being evident, there are several middle back pain exercises you can do to alleviate your pain. There are also some mid back pain stretches that can also help encourage good muscle health for the tissues supporting your spine. Often the times the best middle back pain exercises are exercises that strengthen the core muscles, as well as exercises that encourage good posture, since both are common causes of middle back pain. We also want to do regular mid back stretches, which will help the muscles have less pain by releasing the lactic acid from them. This also helps muscles to grow, because they have to be extended to be after being shortened from other exercises. This complete the muscle tearing process, and expedites muscle healing and regeneration.

Back Pain Exercise 1: Back Bridge

Lie flat on your back. Place your elbows against the ground for support. Bend your legs and put your feet flat on the floor. Use your upper and lower abdominal muscles to lift yourself into a bridge, pushing your hips up, and forming a stable position and a straight line between your shoulders and your knees. Hold the bridge for 10 seconds if possible. Repeat 2-4 times.

This will get easier and easier the more you do it, as your core strengthens. With core muscle exercises, you do still need to dial up just as slowly as with all other exercise. However, the maximum amount of time you can hold the bridge as well as how many times you can do the bridge will increase exponentially more than many other exercises.

This exercise can be done with the back of your knees pressed against an exercise ball to make it more difficult. It also helps tone and shape the muscles in your buttocks, which are also very important to spinal health and support. However, even if you feel very strong, don’t do anything that just sounds crazy when you say it out loud; don’t do 100 30-second bridges. Listen to your body.

Back Pain Exercise 2: Traditional Crunches

Middle back pain exercise, woman in pain

Traditional crunches may seem like an underwhelming solution for middle back pain, but strengthening the muscles of the upper abdomen is extremely helpful in holding your spine in a better alignment. There can be a catch-22 when it comes to doing crunches with back pain, as back pain can impede crunches. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to come very far off the ground for a traditional crunch. In fact, coming too high off the ground will slow the crunch, both making it more difficult and forcing your to arch your back.

Do 15 fast crunches in a row. Again, don’t lift yourself too far off the ground. If you find yourself  pushing your neck forward with your hands, don’t put your hands behind your head. Instead, rest them across your chest. While supporting your neck with your hands is a great help, it can lead to improper technique. Some people push themselves up by the neck while doing crunches, and the hands can encourage this. This can lead to neck strains and over time, maybe even injury.

After your 15 repetitions, give yourself about a 45 second rest. Then do another 15 and stop. Just like with back bridges, there is room to grow. You can increase your reps, your sets, or both. Being able to do more is a great sign of overall core strengthening, not just upper abdominal muscles. Having good technique with good control and balance also engages all of your core muscles. You can increase your number of reps to 20. You can also increase up to four sets. Then, for your final step up, choose whether to increase your repetitions to 25, or increase your sets to five. This will bring you to 100 crunches total.

By the time your core is this strong, your middle back pain should be significantly reduced. Doing more than 100 is not important, not helpful, and will almost certainly do more harm than good to a person with mid back problems.

Back Pain Exercise 3: Core Breath

While you’re still on the ground from your crunches, take a quick breather and rest for just a moment. The next back pain exercises is a breathing exercise which will help build up all the muscles in your core, not just your frontal abdomen. A great core breath should expand all the way into the ribs and back, and pushing out that breath will require all of your core muscles, not just what we think of as our abs. While pushing out, form a very small “oo,” making a whispy sound with your mouth to create resistance. This will make the very full breath harder to push out and force you to engage more of your core muscles to drive the air out of the body.

While you may feel like pushing your belly in toward the end of the breath will help squeeze out more air, but it is actually counterproductive. Engage your whole abdomen when pushing and maintain a nice dome shape until the end of the breath. Repeat the core breath five times. Increase at whatever speed is comfortable to however many you want to do; you’re not going to hurt yourself on this one. This easier floor exercise also helps break up your workout and relax you so you don’t get too tense while working out, which will make you much more sore later.

Back Pain Exercise 4: Leg Swings

This one is simple but effective. The main purpose of this back pain exercise is to activate the muscles in the buttocks, which are the essential to your core strength. Think about your core muscles as a house. You can fortify the first floor and build all kinds of stabilization into the second floor, but if you don’t have a good foundation, your house is still going to sink over time. Your body is similar. If you don’t have a good foundation to your core and focus only on building the core and back muscles, you will eventually sink back into bad posture habits that place more strain on the spine.

First, you’re going to want to do front-to-back leg swings. Lift one leg off the ground just a little, but enough that you won’t touch the ground during the exercise. Swing the leg front to back to engage your gluteal muscles as well as your lower abs. Swing the leg for thirty seconds front to back, then park it for a rest. Try one more of those on the same leg, but if it feels too difficult, don’t finish it. Next, switch to the other leg and do the same thing. Make sure to rest for at least fifteen seconds between swings. Next, switch back to the first leg for lateral leg swings. These are similar, only you swing the leg from side to side.5 About the same time as you did the first leg swings is enough, especially for your first time. This exercise is also great because once you get your core strength built up, you can do this exercise until you’re tired of doing it; you won’t hurt yourself on this on. This video from JK Conditioning gives a great demonstration.

Back Pain Exercise 5: Mid Back Stretches

Since much of middle back pain comes from muscle problems, stretching out the muscles can be some of the most useful middle back pain exercises. Yoga poses can help a great deal in stretching those muscles we have worked in your core as well as your middle back. The Cobra Pose is a very gentle backbend. This will stretch and strengthen the back.

Lie flat on your stomach and place your hands  flat on the floor next to your chest. Gently and slowly push upward, keeping your pelvis to the floor, arching your back from your hips to your shoulders. Don’t go any farther than is comfortable. Hold the pose for 2 deep breaths into the nose and out the mouth, then release. Repeat the stretch three times.

The overhead reach is also a great stretch for those muscles around the middle back that cause middle back pain. Reach above you as far as you can and lock your fingers. Gently and very slowly lean over to one side. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Switch very slowly to the other side, giving it a slow breath as well. Do a total of three times on both sides. Since this is a stretch rather than a strength-training exercise, it is not important to increase repetitions. Just make sure you stretch after every workout to prevent pain from lactic acid buildup, as well as maximize muscle growth. 6

These simple middle back pain exercises will help keep you in better spinal health. Keeping your spine in good health, as well as all the tissues that support it, will help decrease your pain and hopefully keep you from frequent, unproductive visits to the doctor. Investing in the health of your body is investing in yourself, and spinal health is a big part of keeping you in your best shape. No one can live their best life in pain.


1 Back Pain In the U.S. - Statista
2 Upper and Middle Pack Pain - Web MD
3 What are tricyclic antidepressants? - Everyday Health
4 Mid Back Stretches - Healthline
5 Glute Activation Leg Swings - JK Conditioning
6 Upper- and Mid-Back Stretches - LIVESTRONG