How To Manage Upper Back Pain For Desk Workers

Physical Therapy

Home » Physical Therapy » How To Manage Upper Back Pain For Desk Workers


It is not uncommon for desk workers to experience upper back pain. This could be due to stiffness in your joints or tight muscles, causing discomfort and pain. The keep is managing your upper back pain for the long term.

Desk set up for Desk Workers

Start by assessing your desk setup. For your desk setup, your arms should be resting on your desk while you are typing so you do not have to hold up your arms the whole day. Your shoulders should be able to relax as your arms are resting on your desk. Ideally, you are not only using a laptop, so your monitors should be at eye level so you do not have to be looking down the whole day.

Movement throughout the Workday

Let’s discuss movement throughout the day. You are ideally moving into and out of different postures throughout the day, maybe you have a standing desk and are standing a few times a day. The extra part of this is actually getting up from your desk multiple times throughout the day. Walking to the restroom, getting water, lunch etc. If you are someone who can take a call standing or even walking around your office or home, even better.

Immediate pain relief of Upper Back Pain

There are likely one of two things going on, or a combination of both. The first is the stiffness of your upper back. For this, I would recommend performing side-lying thoracic rotation if you are at home, or these two desk mobility exercises if you are in the office.

If you are experiencing muscular pain, start by using a lacrosse or tennis ball to roll out your upper back, this will serve you as a self-massage. Learn how to here. Then I would also recommend the mobility exercises above as well.

Long-Term Management Of Upper Back Pain

Long-term management of your pain will include a combination of what we discussed above including desk setup, getting up from your desk frequently, thoracic (mid back) mobility, and rolling out the muscles as needed. However, it will also include strength-based exercises that focus on your upper back to build the endurance of these muscles to tolerate these positions throughout the workday. Examples of exercises I would recommend are face pulls, reverse flys, band pull apart, and rows are a great start.

Want to learn more tips? Check out my Instagram, subscribe to my newsletter, or check out my YouTube.

Have upper back pain from desk work? Sign up for a free consultation here. Or email me to schedule your physical therapy evaluation.

Free Ergonomic Ebook

Learn how to set up your desk at home or in the office, with links to my favorite products with several options for budgets, or use what you already have!

More from my blogs

Physical Therapy

Strength Training