Upper back pain is a very common problem, too common in fact so I wanted to address it.
There are a few reasons for upper back pain. Your chest muscles are too tight. This happens because you sit at a computer all day, or you hunch forward at your desk. You probably hunch forward while you drive and while you hang out at home too. Some people are VERY aware of this issue and try to be conscious of it, which helps. Most people are not though.
Now you know your chest muscles are too tight, but what's that got to do with your upper back, between your shoulder blades hurting? If your chest muscles are pulling toward each other in front, then your upper back muscles, your Rhomboids are being stretched out.
Why the pain? Your muscles are meant to keep equilibrium. Due to your chest pulling forward so much and your upper back muscles being stretched forward so much, your muscles and fascia are going to start complaining.
Your Rhomboids are yelling at you to tighten them up because they are fighting against the stress of being stretched out too much.
So here are 5 exercises you should be doing 5 days a week to strengthen these muscles up:
1. Seated Scapular Retraction: Use a light band to start. Sit with your back straight no rounding or hunching. Keep a slight bend in your elbows, but do not use your arms. Focus on just squeezing your shoulder blades together. Aim for 12 to 14 reps to start.
2. Horizontal Abduction: Again, use a light band to start. Stand holding the band in front of you, palms facing the floor. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together, like your trying to squeeze a pencil, then pull the band apart all the out so that band touches your chest. Aim for 12-14 reps to start.
3. External Rotation: This exercise you will use a light band every time you do it because you are also activating your rotator cuff muscles and using a light band keeps your bigger muscles from kicking in. Hold the band palms up, elbows tucked in at your ribs, keep your elbows bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then pull the band apart. You can also start this with doing 1 side first and then the other. Aim for 10-12 reps.
4. Upper Back Row: Lean slightly forward, 1 foot on top of the band. The goal is to keep your spine aligned and not allow your back to hunch forward as you get tired. Start with arms straight and then slowly bring them up to 90 degree angle while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Your upper traps or "shoulders" will probably try to kick in so pretend you have a pencil between your should blades that you are trying to squeeze each time you row. Aim for 12-14 reps.
As you strengthen those muscles that contribute to your upper back pain, they will complain less and less about being loose and then you will be able to increase the weight and the sets.
In order to reduce those big knots in your upper back, use a Lacrosse ball and roll them out before you start exercising. If you roll every day, it will help increase blood flow and reduce the pain and irritation between your shoulder blades. When you roll, be sure to go very slowly. If a particular movement feels very intense, stay with that movement until the intensity reduces. You only need to spend about 30 seconds on each knot and then move the Lacrosse ball up or down depending where the next knot is.