Upper back pain and the ring and pinky fingers

My last post discussed the connection between low back pain and a muscle on the front of the torso (the transversus abdominus). This time, let’s look at another common trouble spot: the upper back – specifically, the upper trapezius muscle. This is the muscle that is along the top of your back and the back of your neck.

upper trap

There are a number of factors that contribute to discomfort in the upper trapezius. However, I learned about one I didn’t know before in the book The New Rules of Posture.  In this book, Mary Bond explains how the two outside fingers of the hand can influence tension in the the upper back and neck. She says:

The bones, muscles and fascia of the underside of the arm link the fourth and fifth fingers to the shoulder blade and spine. … When we hold things in our hands without fully engaging the fourth and fifth fingers, we lose the stabilizing connection between the hands, shoulder blades and spine. Lacking this connection, we seek stability in the upper trapezius.

What can you do to reduce the chances of causing neck and back tension arising from the way you use your fingers and hands?

  • Learn to feel the connection between your hands and upper back with this exercise:
    • At a table or desk, place your forearms on the surface with your palms down and elbows just off the edge. Lean forward a bit. Draw the shoulder blades together slightly. Gently press the palms into the surface.Notice the connection between your hands, arms and back.
  • Be aware of and energize your ring and pinky fingers as you handle everyday objects.
  • Be aware of what you’re touching; imagine the surface of the object is also touching your hand in return.
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