Upper Back Pain

Upper Back Pain

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Upper back pain is far less common than lower back pain but it can cause significant discomfort and pain to the person who does suffer from it. Often the cause is muscular irritation, or what is termed as myofascial pain, and joint dysfunction. However, upper back pain may also result if there is injury to a disc in the upper back, such as a herniated disc or degenerated disc.

About the Upper Back

Your upper back is sometimes referred to as the thoracic spine, middle back or mid-back. “Thoracic” means that it pertains to the chest. Unlike the cervical spine (neck) and the lumbar spine (lower back), your upper back is not built for much mobility. Instead, it is there mainly for support: to keep us stable as we stand upright and to protect the vital internal organs in the chest.

Because of this unique design of the upper back, it rarely suffers the risk of injury or degeneration. But as what has already been shown, upper back pain does occur and the symptoms can be as bad as lower back pain.


Most cases of upper back pain are receptive to manual treatments. If the pain is due to muscular irritation caused by overuse of injuries (such as repetitive motions) or de-conditioning (lack of strength), this type of upper back pain may be treated by:

* Exercise/active and passive physical therapy
* Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation
* Deep massage
* Massage therapy
* Acupuncture

Majority of the rehabilitation programs available are heavy on stretching and strengthening. The reason is that upper back pain is related to the large muscles in the shoulder area which must be targeted when exercising to treat the pain.

There is also another method used to treat upper back pain. The method identifies a source of the upper back pain in a specific tender area, called the trigger point. By treating these trigger points, relief for upper back pain is achieved. Treatments that uses this concept include massage therapy, acupuncture and trigger point injections with a local anesthetic (such as Lidocaine).

Manage the Pain Yourself

Not many people want to consult the doctor immediately after feeling any discomfort that may well turn out to be nothing. With upper back pain, you can take self-care steps to provide relief, such as:

* Sports Bra – In women, upper back pain relief is achieved by wearing a sports bra that provides better support. Karl B. Fields, M.D., associate professor of family practice and director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina suggests this technique.
* Proper Sitting Position –Instead of bringing your eyes, head and neck to the paper you are trying to read, bring the paper to your eyes. Hubert Rosomoff, M.D., D.Med.Sc., medical director of the University of Miami Comprehensive Pain and Rehabilitation Center in Miami Beach advises people to adopt this method.

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