A stiff, sore upper back makes it hard to take a deep breath and relax. The good news is that you can ease that tightness with the help of two rubber therapy balls (or tennis balls). Fitness instructor Jill Miller developed this upper-back soothing massage called the rib rock for the Rx Series at Equinox gyms. Give it a try at home the next time you’re feeling tight.
What it does
The balls massage the intercostal muscles around your rib cage, the multifidus muscle that runs along your spine and the rotatores muscles that lie underneath them, allowing you to breathe easier.
What to do
Lying on the floor, take two therapy balls and place them on top of each other between the shoulder blades, to the left side of your spine. Cross your right arm over your body and hug your rib cage, then lay your left arm on top of it, as if you were giving yourself a big hug.
Breathe deeply and rock slowly from side to side, allowing the balls to dig in and massage the muscles across your upper back and alongside your spine. Switch sides, placing the balls on the opposite side of the spine and crossing your right arm over your left.
If reclining on the balls provides too much pressure, you can perform the move against a wall.
Rock for 90 seconds to two minutes. Pause and take a deep breath, and repeat on the other side.