“People often associate this sensation with a ‘knot’ as an area of tightness that needs to be crushed, but for many people I see in my practice, it can actually indicate an area that lacks stability, especially if the stretching is done. [and] Dr. Claire explains that the massage did not help. “If an area lacks stability or strength, the body will try to provide this false stability by ‘pulling’ things in the area – it’s protective in a way.” In other words, the more you try to stretch and massage the knot, the worse things get. To break this cycle, Dr. Claire recommends strengthening your mid-back, which will help reduce tension and magically “knots” disappear.
So How Are you building mid-back strength? Below, Dr. Claire guides us through the first step she recommends adding to your routine.
Step #1 to get rid of the mid back knot
First, let’s explore the causes of this mid-back pseudo-node. Dr. Claire notes that repetitive motions, injuries to the area, and static positions for long periods (for example, slouching or standing upright for long periods) can all contribute to mid-back discomfort.
This exercise works the shoulder stabilizers, which provide stability through the scapula. It also targets the rotator cuff, which supports the arm bone in the shoulder cavity, keeping it stable during movement. This movement also helps improve chest movement, which Dr. Claire explains refers to your movement in the middle of the back, or how far you can move by bending forward and backward or twisting through the middle of your back.
Again, the goal is to strengthen the midfield. “We try to provide some extra stability to the area, so the body doesn’t reactively guard the area,” says Dr. Claire. You will need a foam roller for this exercise. Dr. Claire suggests a high-density 18-inch roller, which has plenty of versatility, but really, any reel will do the trick. Heres how to do it:
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- Kneel on the ground.
- Place a foam roller in front of you horizontally.
- Place your forearms on top of the foam roller. Keep the palms of your hands open and facing each other, and your thumbs pointing up.
- Apply light pressure to the foam roller with your forearms and gently roll your arms outward. Make sure the rest of your body stays in place, your back is flat, your head is parallel to the floor, and you are looking down. Only 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 back of your shoulder blade to do this. Keep your neck relaxed. Avoid shrugging your shoulders up into your ear.
- Return the forearm to the roller, then repeat with the other arm.
- Keep pressing the foam roller and use your mid-back muscles to return to the starting position.
Dr. Claire recommends doing 30 reps three or four times a week. As with most things, consistency is key to achieving results. In general, she says, after three to four weeks, you should start to notice changes in functionality or discomfort.
If kneeling is a problem, you can also do this movement by standing with the foam roller on the wall. Dr. Claire says you can also lie on the floor flat on your stomach and move your hands across the floor in front of you, without the need for a foam roller.
Finally, Dr. Claire encourages listening to your body and seeing an expert if something isn’t right. Mid back pain can also be pain originating in your neck (and thus not working with the middle back), nerve damage, or other non-musculoskeletal conditions or diseases. It’s best to be certain – and secure – before moving forward.