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Upper Back Pain Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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  • Upper Back Pain Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Upper back pain can be a few like salsa or Buffalo wings we know, go with us.

  • Initial, there’s mild: Just a twinge of the tastebuds if we’re discussing sauce and slight pain that’s simple to overlook when it comes to the upper back.
  • Then there’s medium/easy: Now we’re getting somewhere. You’re gonna feel it, but normally only if you take a deep breath or sneeze or move too fast.
  • Lastly, we’ve got spicy: the equivalent to pain so hard you feel the burn from doing the easiest 

daily tasks, or even extinction at all!

Thing is, upper back pain affects everyone uniquely. Partially that’s because there are so many potential reasons for your upper back (also mid-back) pain. The first step in solving your upper back pain problem is understanding why it’s occurring. To do that, start with learning your anatomy.

What Is the Upper Back?

Upper Back

If you need to understand your upper back pain, begin with an anatomy lesson.

Pain in the upper and/or mid-back is less normal than lower back or neck pain. One 2015 Mayo Clinic review of studies recommends that about a third of people get lower back or neck pain (a few higher for lower back, a little lower for neck), comparable to less than one-fifth reporting upper back pain.

The upper back is the region here the cervical spine (neck) and above the low back (lumbar spine). The upper back is called the thoracic spine, and it is the most strong part of the spine. The range of moves in the upper back is limited because of the spine’s attachments to the bones (rib cage).

Since that’s a huge job, the spine itself gives some of the physical load with nearby muscles, some of which add:


  • Trapezius: Near your shoulder blade, supports you stand straight and start
  • Latissimus dorsi: Lower on your back, doctors with arm movement and breathing
  • Rhomboids: Adjacent to trapezius, helps your shoulders and helps you pull


When you hurt your upper or mid-back doing yard work or working tennis, possibilities are high you’ve broken one of these muscles. “The most basic cause we see people with upper back pain is an easy musculoskeletal strain,” states Reginald Knight, MD, Director of Bassett Spine Care Institute in Cooperstown, NY.


Spinal cord injury is less familiar, though possible – especially due to traumatic damage among any age group, or osteoporosis in people older than 65.

Your spine is a long column of bones (vertebrae), which are split by discs that act as shock absorbers. The discs are firm but not solid, with a cartilage surface and a gel-like core. The spinal column preserves the spinal cord, which has nerves that send messages from the brain to other parts of the body. (The nerves also push out from spaces within the vertebrae.)

Also though you force to think of your spine as one long building, doctors see it as three smaller ones: the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper and mid-back), and lumbar spine (low back).

Your thoracic spine moves very uniquely than your cervical and lumbar spine. It doesn’t move a whole lot. The thoracic spine is related to your ribs and sternum, giving it rigid and stable – so it’s less likely to injury. That’s one of the causes you can usually expect upper back pain to be linked to your muscles, not to the spine itself.

What Are Common Symptoms of Upper Back Injury?

Symptoms of Upper Back Injury

If you damage your upper back during daily or weekend-warrior activity, you might endure:

  • Pain
  • Tightness
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Headache

These are common symptoms of musculoskeletal strain, though they can and do happen with spinal injury. If your upper back pain is similar to the bones, nerves, or discs of your thoracic spine, your symptoms may also add:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain down the legs
  • Incontinence (bowel and/or bladder leakage) 
  • Numbness or weakness in your legs

For mild upper back soreness that you can connect to an activity, there’s no want to rush to the doctor for an exam. When you have upper back pain with other symptoms, it’s worth a call to your doctor to explain the next steps.

What Causes Upper Back Pain?

Upper back pain is usually reason by soft tissue damages, such as sprains or strains, or muscle tension created by poor position or looking downward for long periods.

Common actions and actions that can make upper back pain add:

  • Poor posture
  • Text neck
  • Twisting
  • Whiplash or another neck injury
  • Lifting improperly
  • Overuse
  • Repetitive movements
  • Contact sports
  • Carrying too heavy a load
  • Wearing an overloaded backpack

When you look at the senior population, the list of common problems expands. “In aged people, we have to examine osteoporosis and compression cracks, as well as the rare event of a neoplasm, such as many myeloma and lymphoma,” Dr. Knight says.

You don’t have to be a senior to encounter a difficulty directly related to your thoracic spine, though. If your doctor doubts this, you may be examined for:

  • Various forms of arthritis
  • Inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis
  • Fracture of a vertebrae
  • Osteoporosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Cancers that affect the spine

Don’t let that long list of possible, hard conditions alarm you too much. “In younger patients – and when I say young, I mean people up to their mid-60s – it’s most usually a strain,” Dr. Knight says.

What Are Some Upper Back Pain Risk Factors?

Upper Back Pain Risk Factors

Assume you haven’t seen the doctor still about your upper back pain, but you’re much sure it’s not a serious injury. After all, you haven’t taken up a new sport. Maybe you hardly have time to exercise, much less exceed it.

Believe it or not, that raises your risk of back injury. When you’re physically ready, the muscles in your belly and back—your core—help maintain your spine. If you’re quiet, you might have weak muscles that provide an upper back pain.

The need for exercise is one of many factors that can improve your risk of upper back pain. Others add:

Excess weight. Since your spine carries the weight in your torso, excess weight could stress your back. Belly fat, inappropriate, is a difficulty: If you carry a lot of weight in your midsection, it can strain the soft tissues in your end. Conversely, weight loss can reduce pain – through research recommends it may be even more efficient as part of a holistic strategy that adds pain control strategies.

Psychological conditions. Experts aren’t sure why, but you might be more likely to have back pain if you have trouble and anxiety. Some research recommends that people who have trouble have worse back pain than people without trouble.

Smoking. This bad habit decreases blood flow to your spine, which prevents your back from getting the nutrients it wants to stay healthy. As a result, the discs in your spine can decrease. In some people, leaving smoking may help restore some of the loss. But even when the discs don’t restore, quitting smoking decreases inflammation that creates back pain.

What Are Common Upper Back Pain Treatments?

The range of treatments for upper back pain – and neck and mid-back pain, too – suggest there is no best option. These are some examples of different approaches that may help you.

In most cases, upper back pain is not a cause for worry; however, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and inconvenient. Furthermore, if pain develops suddenly and is severe—such as from an injury (eg, fall)—and, certainly if pain and symptoms (eg, weakness) progressively worsen you should seek medical attention.

home remedies

Simple home remedies. In general, the following home treatments may help relieve upper back pain. Ignore the hype about special products marketed on TV or social media. Stick with what science says works, at least for most people with minor musculoskeletal strain:


  • Gentle stretches
  • Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ice to reduce pain and swelling
  • Heat to increase mobility and ease stiffness

Posture exercises. If your position is good, your spinal structures should be correctly arranged, which defeats back strain. Start with these plans to enhance the way you stand or sit.

  • Imagery. Imagine there’s a cord passing by your body from roof to floor. Presently imagine someone picking that cord upward, lightly raising your chest and ribcage.
  • Chin tuck. Sit in a chair with your feet level on the floor. Your shoulders should be comfortable and down. Presently pull your chin in near your neck. Count to five, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze. Put your hands on your legs and keep your shoulders down, about at chin level. Slowly pinch your shoulder blades commonly. Count to five, then relax. Repeat three or four times.
  • Upper backstretch. Lift your right arm to shoulder level, directly in front of you. Bend your arm at the elbow and take that elbow with your left hand. Presently lightly pull it across your chest and hold it for 20 seconds. Repeat three times on each side.
Posture exercises
Prescription drugs

Prescription drugs. In many cases, a prescription anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant will do the ability ease your upper and medial back pain. If your doctor doubts depression plays a role in your pain, you may provide an anti-depressant to take longer-term (months, not weeks). Opioid pain relievers may be suggested for severe pain that isn’t helped by other painkillers, but they’re not suggested for long periods (7 to 10 days(. Lastly, you may help from an anticonvulsant medicine; it works best for pain reason by nerve damage.

Injections. An active point injection is a direct shot of strong pain medicine. It may solve your difficulty, or it may just buy you enough cramp-free time to pursue other interventions (For example exercise and stretching; see the hands-on cure bullet below) to get your upper back pain in analysis.

Hands-on healing

Hands-on healing. Physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care may each give relief to your upper back pain. Ask your doctor if it’s secure for you to do more than one of these interruptions during a given time frame.

Most cases of upper back pain solve in 1 to 2 weeks without more treatment. Resume your normal movements gradually, when you can do them without pain. Don’t rush things, though: you could conflict with your recovery and risk re-injury.

Surgery. The idea of spine surgery can be scary, but sometimes it’s the most secure way to get relief. Surgery is rarely notified for isolated upper back pain. This is almost always due to a problem with the spine itself, such as a herniated disc, vertebral fracture, or deformity.