Upper Back Stretches for Seniors

These upper back stretches for seniors are a simple and effective way to improve the mobility in your shoulders, scapula and upper back area. I don’t know any senior who won’t benefit with stretching and strengthening this area for neck pain relief, shoulder and arm pain relief.

Stretches for the upper back are very important for seniors because much of our day is spent reaching and otherwise using our arms for all tasks and activities around the house. Reaching for the plate on the top shelf? Using an ironing board for straightening out your dress? Cooking a large pot of spaghetti? This is all accomplished with upper back and arms.

  1. Roll Down
  2. Spinal Rotation
  3. Open Chest Stretch
  4. Wall Angels
Watch my instructional video

The roll down is one of my favorite back stretches. It is gentle and works really well with my breathing. Take a deep breath to start and slowly exhale while rolling one vertebrae at a time as you round your back and lean forward. Side rotation is wonderful to stretch out all those large and small back muscles. The chest press may appear difficult at first. Give it a try and work with your breath as you lean forward, release your hands and bring them to the ceiling. Wall angles are a staple in a stretch class. This will work on your posture and give you cuing to maintain your straight back while moving your arms into position.

Exercise 1

Seated Roll Down, begin seated in your chair. Scoot to the front edge with arms at sides. Inhale and extend your arms out in front of your chest, then bring your knuckles together. Exhale and slowly bring your arms down between your knees, rolling down, one vertebrae at a time until your fingers touch the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Then reverse your position and roll slowly back up to starting position one vertebrae at a time. Repeat 3 times.

Exercise 2

Spinal Rotation. Begin seated in your chair with ribs lifted and feet flat on floor. Place your right hand on your left knee and turn to the left, looking over your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds. Return to the starting position. Now place your left hand on your right knee and turn to the right and look over your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 2 times.

Exercise 3

Chest Stretch Opener. If standing, begin with your arms extended and interlace your fingers at shoulder height. Exhale and slowly lower your hands toward your ankles. Release your fingers and pass your ankles, reconnecting behind your calf. Continue to bring your hands back and up while bending forward until your arms are pointing towards the ceiling. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds, then reverse to get back to the starting position. Repeat 2 times.

Exercise 4

Wall Angles. Begin by standing with heels close to the wall. Place your tailbone against the wall, then shoulders, then head. Bring your arms up to 90 degrees on the wall, then raise them above your head, trying to keep your knuckles as close to the wall as possible. Lower your arms to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Make sure to warm up before trying theses exercises to enhance your efforts. By limbering up before hand, we increase the blood flow to these areas, warm up the joints and muscles, and get the cells ready to use oxygen and begin metabolizing. Think about breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly as you exercise. I like in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts. This will slow you down in order to improve the effectiveness of the stretches. This is true especially for the roll down and side rotation.

Try to avoid any pain while doing these exercises, especially using your shoulders with the wall angel. Muscle discomfort is part of exercising, but pain in our joints can be a signal to reduce your range of motion, decrease your resistance of the exercise band or the dumbbells.

Try to keep your head in line with your spine while looking left and right during the side rotational exercise. A pure rotation move is safe for seniors but combining a rotational force and a bending force may be something you can avoid if the is discomfort or pain involved.

Upper back stretches for seniors can help improve your range of motion especially in the shoulders and shoulder blades. This can be seen in how high you are able to raise your arm during tasks like putting away the plates and glassware after dinner.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see other exercises or senior fitness content. You can leave your comments and suggestions on my About Page. Need personal help? Check out my new Academy. Exercise is really your magic pill to feel better and live longer. Remember to stay active, stay strong, and stay connected!

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Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.