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This One Stretch Will Banish Upper Back Pain and Fix Your Posture

Open up tight shoulders, neck, and chest muscles, too.


When you’re spending long periods sitting down, your back is often working overtime. The result? Tired, tight back muscles that may later lead to a hunched-over posture and worse — chronic pain. Luckily, stretching every day is a quick and easy way to fight the issue. Specifically, one stretch called the wall angel could help nix your upper back pain and straighten up that posture once and for all.

The Wall Angel for Posture and Back Pain

As a yoga instructor, I frequently get requests to create sequences that stretch the upper back, neck, and shoulders, and the wall angel is a move I return to over and over again. Why? This stretch works to strengthen and stretch all the muscles that are compromised during prolonged, static postures like sitting at a computer.

When we sit for long periods, the muscles from the back of the neck down the entire trunk become over-worked and weakened. On the opposite side, those on the front of the neck, shoulders, chest, and abdomen become stiff and shorten. By performing wall angels each day, you’ll help strengthen and stretch all of these muscles groups so that even when you are sitting, your posture is better supported and not causing strain.

The one thing I love the most about this move is how easy it is to do just about anywhere at any time! Take a few minutes to perform this stretch whenever you’re feeling tight in the upper back (say, if you’ve been sitting at your desk all day), or make a daily effort to do them in the morning and before bed at night. With consistency, you could very well see tension and pain disappear.

How to Perform A Wall Angel

As the name suggests, you’ll need a wall to perform a wall angel. It acts as a prop to help guide your arms and keep your spine in a neutral position, which increases the effectiveness of the stretch. For a visual reference, the wall angel is also sometimes called the “V” to “W” stretch, as your arms begin in “V” shape above your head, and end in a “W” shape. named so for the beginning and ending arm positions.

To do a wall angel, follow these steps.

  1. Stand with your feet about 6 inches away from the wall, resting your head, shoulders, back, and buttocks against the wall.
  2. Engage your core by drawing your belly up and in, and try to press your lower-back into the wall. This will help bring your spine into a neutral position.
  3. Now, draw your arms up overhead, keeping the backs of the hands pressed up against the wall, until your arms are in a “V” position. If this is difficult, you can step your feet further away from the wall. Hold this “V” for five deep, belly breaths.
  4. Next, slowly bend the elbows, keeping the hands glued to the wall, and draw your hands down until your fingertips are aligned with your shoulders. All the while, your head, back, and butt should remain flush with the wall.
  5. When your fingertips reach shoulder height, hold the posture for five deep, belly breaths before returning to the “V” position.
  6. Repeat 5 to 10 repetitions of this exercise, stopping if you feel pain.

For some more specific instruction, check out this video tutorial.

With consistent practice that only takes a few minutes per day, it’s possible to relieve chronic upper back pain and posture issues. We hope you’ll get the most of this wall angel stretch!

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