Upper back and neck pain is something comes into the office frequently. It is often associated with muscular imbalances with the pecs and interscapular muscles as well as poor movement of the shoulder blades. Patients often complain of pain in the interscapular area, upper traps, and or posterior lateral cervical paraspinal musculature. It can present either unilaterally or bilaterally.
This is often due to weakness in the interscapular muscles like middle and lower trapezius, and rhomboid major and minor. Patients with these types of complaints often report tightness in these muscles and mention they feel like they need to constantly stretch these muscles. The reason behind this tightness is that these muscles are already overstretched. These muscles are more or less begging to return to a normal length and not be stretched constantly.
One of my favorite exercises to utilize to begin strengthening the interscap muscles is the face pull. These can be performed with a resistance band or a cable pulley. Set the band or pulley either chest or shoulder height and step back to allow the arms to stretch forward. From there, stiffen your core, squeeze your glutes, and pull the band towards your forehead. Externally rotate your arms and retract your shoulder blades WITHOUT shrugging. Return to the beginning position, protracting the shoulders forward as you reach forward. You should feel muscle activation between the shoulder blades that should be comfortable and not painful.
Give these a shot for some upper back strengthening and pain relief!