How to relieve upper back muscle tension during the day in under 10 minutes

How to relieve upper back muscle tension during the day in under 10 minutes

Do you remember that feeling of tension all over your body after sitting in the office for the whole day? What if there was a way to relieve that tension so that you don’t feel as tired by the end of the day?

Sounds interesting? Then keep reading.

Our muscles get tense because they don’t get enough exercise or movement. We sit in front of the computer in the same position for hours and hours. This causes muscle tension and strain (and knots).

To prevent this you can do a few simple exercises with a few tools. The beauty of those exercises is that they don’t take a lot of effort, willpower or time. Some of the exercises don’t even need active movement. They also don’t always need a warmup. The tools are all portable and you can keep them in a desk drawer.

The best part is that you need about 10 minutes to feel the difference. However, you will likely do more as the exercises feel wonderful!

The majority of exercises involves self-massage and myofascial release. Think deep tissue massage (with less intensity) while at work.

One of the most effective tools to use is a lacrosse ball. It brings the most relief in the least amount of time.

How: put the ball against a muscle in the upper back area, press the ball against the wall, then roll or hold in one spot for 30 seconds. 30 seconds is the minimum time needed for the muscle release. I find holding much more effective. Remember when you go for a deep tissue massage and the masseuse holds their thumb in one (usually very painful) spot? Now you can achieve the same effect by yourself using the ball. It is a form of myofascial release and works best to release knots in tight muscles, particularly the upper back. Those tend to get very tense from sitting in front of a computer for hours.

Ask a physio therapist or a personal trainer for the proper technique. Be careful when working the muscles near the spine – it should not be massaged. Additionally, don’t go overboard when using the ball to release the upper back muscle tension. I can say from personal experience that 3 days of massaging left me in pain for the whole weekend. Take it easy at the beginning while you find the way to use it that suits you the most.

The lacrosse ball does take some time to get used to. It is rock hard. You will definitely feel intense pressure against a tender muscle. It is not the most pleasant feeling. However, the relief you get after it is totally worth it!

You can initially start with a tennis ball. It’s a bit softer than a lacrosse ball so it doesn’t feel as painful.

It does take under 10 minutes to feel the difference. Although, most likely you would want to do it for longer as it feels fantastic.

An alternative to the lacrosse ball is TheraCane®. It’s a piece of plastic in the shape of a sugar cane with several handles and knobs on it. You don’t need a wall for this as you can hold it in your hands and press against the tight muscle on your back. You can also do it while sitting on a chair. The idea is the same – massage around or hold for 30 seconds.

The effect from all of those tools will be more beneficial if the muscles are warmed up prior. Doing some stretches and light exercises will help warm up your muscles.

Sitting in the same position for a prolonged period of time is one of the main causes for muscle tightness. Around lunch hour you can start feeling it at the base of your neck and shoulders. Shoulder and back muscles become tight since they forced into the same position for a prolonged period of time. This is the general principle of how muscle knots are created.

One way to relieve that feeling is to do some simple exercises that target those muscles. You don’t even need the gym or equipment for that. A simple resistance band is a great tool to use. Even 5 minutes of exercises targeting the upper back and shoulders will lead to a noticeable relief. Those exercises don’t require a lot of strength or energy.

Personal trainers or physiotherapists would be a good source of information as they would know the proper technique. Alternatively, all of the exercises are described in detail online. Be sure to find the resource that pays attention to the proper technique. When the load or duration increase, the improper technique could lead to injury. I like videos posted by Blake Bowman from Guerilla Zen Fitness and Jeff Cavaliere from Athlean-X. Those two guys have professional designations and seem to know what they are talking about.

CrossFit gyms usually carry good bands of different resistance.

Another tool that can bring fast relief is an acupressure ball. This targets feet as they never get enough attention. The balls come is all sizes and colors. Some are harder and more spiky than others. The ones on the picture are Foot Rubz (smaller) and ProTec Spiky Massage ball (larger).

Massaging your feet with the acupressure balls after many hours in heels or even sneakers feels heavenly. You don’t even have to leave your desk to use the acupressure ball.

They are rather small and compact. However, they do require some practice to keep them under your foot while putting pressure. If you can’t be bothered you can get a foot roller. It’s the same idea but easier to work with.

So here it is. Very few tools but a great deal of muscle tension relief. I usually take about 15-20 minute breaks every 2.5 hours and use some of those tools. I’m always amazed how much better I feel after. Work goes easier as well. The beneficial effect accumulates throughout the day so that by the end of it you don’t feel as tired.

Now over to you!

This article gives some practical tools that can be applied immediately. For a more comprehensive overview of what can be done to increase mental performance read this article here.


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