Ask Deb: "Why Does My Student Have Back Pain?"
June 12, 2017

I have a tall student who complains of pain in her middle back—at the bra strap area. She feels pain when sitting at school and if we are doing any sort of jump with the leg in arabesque. She has seen a doctor who suggested taking heavy pain meds when she feels uncomfortable. Can you suggest anything?

I remember when I first started working with a lower-back specialist in New York City and had patients telling me they had “weak lower backs.” That wasn’t what was showing up in their assessments, though. They had weak abdominals and tight lower-back muscles.

The one area of the back I see weakness in is the upper middle back. I suspect your tall student “shortens” her spine by slumping. You don’t mention her age, but it is not at all unusual to see taller teens compress their spines as they converse with shorter friends. Tallness aside, slumping at the computer or desk is very common, and it will create discomfort right between the shoulder blades. If they are in school, they are sitting—a lot!

Slumping is a fatigue posture. The muscles are working to keep your head, neck and spine from rounding even further forward, and that takes effort. The weight of the body needs to travel through the bones.

There are many habits that aggravate this area, such as carrying a heavy dance bag or sitting in chairs or cars that don’t allow you to sit up straight. The solution is to correct your alignment while sitting and strengthen the middle-back muscles. Doing an elbow plank in good form could be a quick and easy way for her to work on both core strength and upper middle-back strength.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel


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