“People often associate this sensation of a ‘knot’ as an area of tightness that must be hit, but for many people I see in my practice, it can actually indicate a lack of stability in an area, especially if stretched. [and] Massage didn’t help,” explains Dr. Clare. “If an area lacks stability or strength, the body will try to provide this false stability by ‘tightening’ things in that area – it’s protective in a way.” In other words, the more you try to stretch and massage the knot, the worse it will get. To break that cycle, Dr. Clare recommends strengthening the mid-back, which will help ease the tightness and make the “knot” magically disappear.
so how Do you build mid-back strength? Below, Dr. Clare guides us through the top steps she recommends adding to your routine.
Step #1 to get rid of mid-back knots
First, let’s explore what causes these faux mid-back knots. Dr. Clare notes that repetitive motion, trauma to the area, and chronic posture (ie, slouching or holding yourself upright for long periods of time) can all contribute to mid-back discomfort.
This exercise works the scapula stabilizers, which provide stability through the shoulder blades. It also targets the rotator cuff, which supports the arm bone in the shoulder socket, keeping it stable during movement. And this move also helps improve thoracic mobility, which Dr. Clare explains refers to the mobility of your mid-back, or how much you can bend forward and back or twist your mid-back.
Again the aim is to strengthen the mid back. “We’re trying to provide some extra stability to the area, so the body isn’t reactively guarding,” says Dr. Clair. You will need a foam roller for this exercise. Dr. Clare recommends an 18-inch high-density roller, which has a lot of versatility, but really, any roller will do the trick. Here’s how to do it:
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- Kneel on the ground.
- Place a foam roller horizontally in front of you.
- Place your arms on top of the foam roller. Keep your palms open and facing each other and your thumbs facing upwards.
- Apply light pressure on the foam roller with your forearms and gently roll your arms outward. Make sure the rest of your body is in place, your back is flat and your head is parallel to the floor looking down. Only move your arms for this move.
- Once your arms are straight and fully extended in front of you, lift one arm 1-2 inches off the foam roller. Use your mid-back muscles and the back of your shoulder blades to do this. Keep your neck relaxed. Move your shoulders up into your ears.
- Return the arm to the roller, then repeat with the other arm.
- Maintain pressure on the foam roller and use your mid-back muscles to return to your starting point.
Dr. Clare recommends doing 30 reps three or four times per week. As with most things, consistency is the key to achieving results. Generally, he says after three to four weeks, you should start to notice changes in performance or discomfort.
If kneeling is a problem, you can also do this movement standing with a foam roller against a wall. Dr. Clair says you can lie on the floor on your stomach and slide your hands along the floor in front of you, no foam roller needed.
Finally, Dr. Clare encourages listening to your body and seeing a specialist if something doesn’t feel right. Middle back pain can be pain from your neck (which is why working the middle back doesn’t help) or result from nerve damage or other non-musculoskeletal conditions or illnesses. It is better and safer to be sure before proceeding.