Skip to content
Home > Hospitals And Services > Services A to Z > Musculoskeletal (MSK) Physiotherapy > Self-help and information – Upper Back

Self-help and information – Upper Back

Important Facts About Your Upper Back 

Please read the following information and then use the links at the bottom of the page if you are looking for further information or exercise.

Here is a list of the main problems and concerns we would recommend you get checked out by a health professional before commencing self- management exercises. These are called Red Flags and may indicate a more serious problem that requires medical assessment.

Symptoms That Are Present After Trauma

If your injury is caused by a recent significant traumatic incident to your head, neck or body (e.g. a fall from a height, significant car accident) please have this checked out by a health professional before commencing with an exercise program.

NOTE: if you have a known diagnosis of osteoporosis (low bone density) a small amount of force (e.g. strenuous lifting) may cause problems that require medical assessment.

Symptoms Where No Trauma Was Involved

If you feel any of these signs appear rapidly or over a longer period of time please have these checked out by a health professional.

  • Severe restriction in the movement of your neck/ trunk or arm
  • Changes in your balance and the way you are walking e.g. tripping, falling
  • Weakness and/ or altered sensation into both arms and/ or legs at the same time
  • Electric shock sensations into both arms and legs on forward bending of your head or looking down
  • Problems with coordination of upper and/ or lower limbs e.g. writing, standing and walking
  • Pain or altered sensation around your trunk e.g. can be described as a band of pain/ numbness around the chest
  • Chest pain, excessive yawning and/or altered/ difficulty breathing
  • Fever or generally feeling unwell at same time as mid back symptoms developed
  • Constant severe pain which does not change with rest or activity
  • Significant pain and/or night sweats
  • A previous history of cancer/ unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained lumps or bumps that are changing/ growing
  • Increasing number of joints that are painful and/ or stiff
  • Sudden change in height and/or curvature of your spine, inability to be upright
  • Significant changes to bowel, bladder habits and/or sexual function required IMMMEDIATE MEDICAL ASSESSMENT. WARNING: Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) This a rare but extremely serious spinal condition that requires immediate assessment. 

For further information on CES: 

NOTE: Special attention should be taken if you have a history of long-term steroid/ immunosuppressive drug use, recent joint replacement, dental surgery or steroid injection. Previous spinal surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis or other joint disease, recent infection, previous history of tuberculosis, intravenous drug use or alcohol misuse

Upper Back Exercises

Please make sure you have read through the important information about upper back pain before proceeding.

Here are some exercises to help you get your upper back moving better. You may need to build these exercises up gradually.

You may be uncomfortable when you start doing these exercises – make sure the level of discomfort feels acceptable to you and that it doesn’t take too long to settle once you are finished.

The exercises should get easier the more consistently you manage to practice them and this may allow you to progress to more difficult exercises.

These are self help exercises:

  • Try to enjoy the exercises and work at a pace and level that feels safe
  • Please use a common sense approach when deciding which ones to try
  • The exercises listed are not designed as an alternative to professional advice.

Exercise videos

Beginner exercise
Progressive upper back exercises