This is a great stretch for people who get an ache in their upper back between their shoulder blades, as well as those with neck pain or who spend a lot of time doing stuff with their arms down in front of them…
This stretch targets your pectoralis major and minor. In so much of what we do– typing on a computer, holding a steering wheel, knitting, holding objects like phones and babies– our arms are pulled forward, shortening these muscles. The problem is, our very clever body adapts to this, telling itself that a short pectoral muscle is normal.
Why does this matter to our upper back? Those muscles do the opposite of the pectorals, and now that the pectoral muscles are pulled short, they have to work from a long position. The most tiring way to use a muscle is from a long position, so they get extra tired, and then they complain to you by aching.
The goal of this stretch is to encourage those pectoral muscles to be long again, so the back muscles can be happy, functioning at a normal length.
While stretching probably won’t “fix” any issues all on its own, it is an easy way to help prevent injury and maintain flexibility and proper muscle length if done correctly. Regularly stretching your pectoral muscles can help remind your body that it isn’t normal for them to be short, and is one step in avoiding the development of chronic pain and postural issues. If you already experience chronic pain in your back or neck, this could help keep the situation from worsening, and is a great compliment to any massage or bodywork you are receiving for this area.
Approach the doorway as if you’re just passing through, with a bit of a stride stance. Bring up one forearm and rest it on the door frame. Keep your elbow and shoulder at 90°, and keep your chest and hips facing forward. Then simply lean forward until you feel the resistance in your upper chest or the front of your shoulder.
Hold the stretch for however long feels appropriate, going into and out of the stretch slowly. Make sure you do both sides, even if only one side is bothering you.
You can also play with changing the angle of your shoulder to stretch different muscle fibers more or less. Simply raise or lower the level of your forearm on the door frame, and voila! you’ve got a whole new stretch.
Every time you walk through a doorway. Or at least, pick a favorite doorway or two, in your house, at work, or somewhere you go often.