A tight upper back may be attributed to stiffness in the shoulder, neck, or back muscles surrounding the thoracic spine. Rounded or slump shoulders, having sway in the lower back, or a forward head position due to weak back extensor muscles, short and tight chest muscles, or weak abdominal muscles may result in an individual having poor posture. Poor posture can place tension in the upper back and may result in irritation or pain. Sports, weightlifting, irregular sleeping positions, or car accidents may also cause tightness in the upper neck and back region. Mobilizing and strengthening the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine may relieve an individual of stiffness or pain, while improving an individual’s range of motion and functioning. Remember to have a balanced, upright posture by standing tall, bringing the shoulders down and back, tuck your chin, and keep a neutral spine to work on better posture.
Lie sideways on a mat or on the floor with both arms extended to one side and hands together. Bend the knee of the top leg to form a 90 degree angle. Place a long foam roller underneath the bent knee if you are unable to touch the ground with this top knee. Keeping your lower body in this position, twist your upper back by bringing the top arm over your body to the other side to touch the floor. Repeat 10-12 times, then lie on the other side and complete the same movement.
Begin in a table-top position with your knees hip-width apart and wrists shoulder-width apart on a mat or on the floor. Keep a neutral spine and head position. Move into the “cow” pose by inhaling as you drop your belly down towards the mat as you lift your chin and chest up to gaze toward the ceiling. Then move into the “cat” pose by exhaling as you draw your belly into your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Repeat 10-15 times.
Begin seated in a chair with both feet planted on the floor or seated on the floor. Raise one arm up towards the ceiling. With your arm raised above your head, slowly bend to the opposite side. Return to the start position and lower your arm. Then raise the other arm and slowly bend to the opposite side. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
Place a long foam roller perpendicular to your spine on a mat or on the floor underneath your shoulder blades. Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head to support the weight of your head. Slowly push with your feet to roll the foam roller up and down the thoracic region. Maintain a neutral spine and engage your abs.
This exercise helps to re-train muscle activation in the shoulder blades and mobilizes the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine for a better functional recovery. Place your hands and knees in a four point or table-top position with a neutral spine. Engage the inner core and start by walking one hand out to one side, then back to the centre, and then to the other side, then back to the centre again. Put full equal weight each time you place your hand down. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise. Repeat for 30 seconds for 3 sets.
Ever feel pain or swelling on the side of your foot? These symptoms may be due to a condition called Cuboid Syndrome, also known as cuboid subluxation or lateral plantar neuritis. In addition to pain in the lateral mid-foot, redness and a restricted range of motion in the ankle may be present. This syndrome is typically associated with an inversion sprain of the ankle. This is when the foot is forced inwards causing the cuboid bone to sublux, or partially dislocate. The cuboid bone is located near the mid-point of the outer side of the foot and is one of the seven tarsal bones that make up the arch of the foot. It connects the foot and ankle as well as provides stability to the foot.
The peroneus longus muscle is a muscle that runs along the outer side of the lower leg and attaches to the lateral side of the foot. Repetitive strain of this muscle due to activities such as ballet, jumping, or running, may place tension on the cuboid bone. Commonly found in athletes, Cuboid Syndrome may also occur in sports such basketball, football, or soccer. Weight-bearing, uneven pavement, or quick changes in direction that occur in sports may aggravate symptoms. A third cause of this syndrome may be an individual’s altered foot biomechanics. Athletes who have over-pronated feet, also known as flat feet, may be more prone to cuboid subluxation.
Imaging such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can be used to rule out other causes of pain. However, a cuboid subluxation can be difficult to diagnose and therefore, must be carefully assessed by a general physician or other health care professional.
Daily strengthening and mobility exercises should be performed on a pain-free basis to prevent the foot and ankle from becoming weak or stiff. Watch the videos below on how to properly perform strengthening exercises:
Other treatment options include foot support such as padding, taping, or orthotics to help stabilize the bones of the midfoot or correct for over-pronation. Rest from repetitive, weight-bearing actions such as jumping or running may help alleviate pain. Ice affected area for 10 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and inflammation. Consult your family physician, physical therapist, or podiatrist to perform a manipulation if the cuboid bone is suspected to be dislocated.
Finger sprains commonly occur in sports and every day activities that involve heavy lifting or repetitive hand motions. Falls or contact sports such as football may even force a finger out of its normal joint position resulting in a dislocation. The force to the finger may cause joints in the finger to hyperextend or move sideways. Sprains of the finger are classified according to the extent of injury or damage.
1) Grade I – Mild: A first degree sprained finger is present when the ligaments are only stretched but not ruptured. There may be localized swelling, slight pain, and slight reduction in range of motion, but strength remains unaffected. An individual may continue to engage in an activity. Taping of the injured finger may be more effective. Recovery is immediate.
2) Grade II – Moderate: A second degree sprained finger occurs when there is partial ligament tears, a greater reduction in range of motion and some loss of strength with more swelling and pain. The joint capsule may also be damaged. Recovery will take longer.
3) Grade III – Severe: A third degree sprained finger involves complete rupture of the ligament, complete loss of range of motion and typically dislocation of the finger. Significant pain and swelling is present. X-ray is required for diagnosis and surgery may be indicated.
In the first 48 to 72 hours after the sprain, the individual should protect the finger by taping it to the adjacent finger or by using a finger brace. Apply ice for about 15 min every two hours with a small ice pack wrapped in a dry towel or use a large cup filled with cold water and some ice for immersion.
Once swelling has gone down, the individual may begin light range of motion exercises by placing a soft object such as a tennis ball or rolled sock in the palm of the hand and gently squeezing the object. Repeat 10 times and stop if any pain arises. Surgery may be indicated for third degree sprains. Consult a physician for the appropriate diagnosis.
1) Ball Grip: Hold a ball in the palm of the hand with all fingers enclosing the ball and gently squeeze. Hold, then relax.
2) Pinch: Place a ball between the thumb and index finger. Gently squeeze, then relax.
3) Opposition: Hold a ball with the thumb and pinky finger. Gently squeeze the ball using the two fingers, then relax.
4) Side-Squeeze: Place a ball between any two fingers and gently squeeze, then relax.
Home exercising can be just as effective as going to the gym by using household items such as a medium-sized towel. Check out the exercises below for a full body work-out:
In a plank position with a towel under both feet and maintaining a neutral spine, walk forwards by placing one hand in front of the other for 10 to 20 steps.
Find where the hairline ends to locate a noticeable “bump” on the back of your neck. This is the spinous process for your 2nd cervical vertebrae. Place the edge of an unrolled towel on this spot, then cross your hands over, making sure the top hand is on the same side as the direction of rotation (e.g. right arm will pull towel downwards towards the middle of the chest if you are turning LEFT). Complete a pain-free rotation 3 times in each direction per day.
Persistent pain between the shoulder pains, or interscapular pain, may arise from a number of varying causes. The scapula is the bone that connects the humerus (upper arm bone) with the clavicle (collar bone) on either side of the body. The intrinsic muscles of the scapula include the subscapularis, teres minor, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus, all of which make up the rotator cuff. The major muscles surrounding the scapula that make up the interscapular region include the rhomboids, trapezius, and levator scapulae.
Weak scapular muscles can lead to an array of injuries including shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tears, and other shoulder-related pains. Pain may be followed by a restricted range of motion and may severely worsen if left untreated. Strengthening the scapular muscles can provide long-term benefits for rehabilitation and performance. Try the five following exercises below:
1. Lie down flat on a bench with a light dumbbell in each hand.
2. Hold the dumbbells on either side of your chest with the palms facing away from your shoulders and your elbow at a 90 degree angle.
3. Push your arms upwards and feel your shoulder blades separate. Remember to keep the dumbbells parallel to each other until the very top of the press.
3. Inhale and slowly bring down both dumbbells to the sides of your chest until you reach the 90 degree angle at the elbow. Breathe out on your next rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Stand a few steps away from a wall, then place your hands on the wall so that they are slightly more than shoulder-width apart and arms are locked out.
2. Maintain a neutral back and neck, then slowly lean towards the wall by bending your elbow.
3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lower yourself and hold this forward position for 2-3 seconds.
4. Slowly straighten your arm and relax your shoulder blades. Repeat 10 times.
1. In a comfortable standing position, hold a light band in between both hands about shoulder-width apart.
2. Pull the band as wide as you can, then slowly bring the arms back to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Lie on your stomach on a bench or Swiss ball with a light dumbbell in each hand.
2. Straighten your arms so that the dumbbell is in front of your head.
3. Lift the dumbbells up, keeping your arms straight, to make a “Y” shape with your torso.
4. Slowly lower them down. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Hold a very light dumbbell straight in front of you at approximately 45 degree angle.
2. Maintain this position for about 10 seconds.
3. Then, slowly lower the dumbbell to the side of your body. Perform 10 holds on each side.
BONUS: Watch this video to learn an extra exercise for the scapula muscles!