“People often associate this ‘knot’ feeling as an area of tightness that needs to be tapped, but for many of the people I see in my practice, it can actually indicate an area that lacks stability, especially if stretched [and] massage hasn’t helped,” explains Dr. Clare. “If an area lacks stability or strength, the body will try to provide this false stability by ‘squeezing’ things in the area; She’s protective in a way.” In other words, the more you try to stretch and massage the knot, the worse it gets. To break that cycle, Dr. Clare recommends strengthening your mid-back, which will help decrease tightness and make “knots” magically disappear.
So What Do you build strength in the middle of the back? Below, Dr. Clare walks us through the top move she recommends adding to her routine.
The #1 Move to Get Rid of Mid-Back Knots
First, let’s explore what causes these false mid-back knots. Dr. Clare notes that repetitive motions, injuries to the area, and prolonged static postures (i.e., slouching or standing tall for long periods) can all contribute to mid-back discomfort.
This exercise works the stabilizers of the scapula, which provide stability through the shoulder blade. It also targets the rotator cuff, which supports the arm bone in the shoulder socket, keeping it stable during movement. And this movement also helps improve thoracic mobility, which Dr. Clare explains refers to mid-back mobility, or how much you can move by leaning back and forth or rotating your mid-back.
Once again, the goal is to strengthen the middle of the back. “We’re trying to provide some additional stability to the area, so the body isn’t on reactive defense,” says Dr. Clare. You will need a foam roller for this exercise. Dr. Clare suggests an 18-inch high-density roller, which has a lot of versatility, but really, any roller will work. Here is how to do it:
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- Kneel on the ground.
- Place a foam roller in front of you horizontally.
- Put your forearms on top of the foam roller. Keep your palms open and facing each other, and thumbs up.
- Apply light pressure to the foam roller with your forearms and gently roll them outward. Make sure the rest of your body stays in place, your back is flat, and your head is parallel to the floor, looking down. Just move your arms for this movement.
- Once your arms are straight and fully extended in front of you, lift one arm 1 to 2 inches off the foam roller. Use the muscles in your mid-back and the back of your shoulder blade to do this. Keep your neck relaxed. Avoid shrugging your shoulders towards your ear.
- Return your forearm to the roller, then repeat with the other arm.
- Keep pressure on the foam roller and use your mid-back muscles to return to the starting point.
Dr. Clare recommends doing 30 repetitions three to four times a week. As with most things, consistency is the key to achieving results. In general, he says, after three to four weeks, you should start noticing changes in functionality or discomfort.
If kneeling is a problem, you can also do this move while standing with the foam roller against a wall. Dr. Clare says that she can also lie on the floor on her stomach and slide her hands across the floor in front of you, without the need for a foam roller.
Lastly, Dr. Clare encourages listening to your body and seeing an expert if something doesn’t feel right. A pain in the middle of the back can also be a pain that comes from the neck (which is why working with the middle of the back does not help) or the result of nerve damage or other non-musculoskeletal conditions or diseases. It is better to be safe and secure before moving forward.