Upper back pain is not a primary spinal disorder but causes Significant pain and irritation when it occurs. Upper back is the region below the neck (cervical spine) and above the lower back (lumbar spine). The upper back is a stable part of the spine and is known as the thoracic spine. The upper back is stable due to its limited range of motion and attachment to the rib cage.
Your ribs attach to a flat bone in the center of the chest and wrap around your back. If a nerve in this region gets pinched or injured, you might feel pain in other areas where the nerves travel such as arms and legs.
The upper back and the ribs work together to keep the back stable and protect vital organs such as the heart and lungs.
The upper back consists of;
• 12 vertebrae which attach to the rib cage making up the longest part of your back.
• Discs acting as shock absorbers and separate the vertebra
• Muscles that hold the spine together
Symptoms of Upper Back Pain
Upper back is mainly caused by muscular injuries and certain lifestyle factors. The symptoms resulting from upper back pain are similar to those caused by lower back pain. Commonly the symptoms are mild and are rarely a sign of a significant underlying problem. In general symptoms of upper back pain include;
- A dull, burning, or sharp pain.
- Severe neck or back pain
- The pain can be felt at a single or broad area.
- The pain starts slowly and gradually gets worse.
- Commonly, pain occurs with muscle tightness or stiffness.
- Getting chronic pain can be caused by carrying out certain activities.
If you get the below symptoms, seek immediate medical advice.
- Weakness in your arms or legs.
- Numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, chest or belly.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
- Back pain paired with chest pain or other symptoms related to the heart attack.
Symptoms of a heart attack are different from those of upper back pain. If you experience chest pains accompanied by the below symptoms, chances are that you are having a heart attack.
- Chest pain or pressure in the chest.
- Sweating and shortness of breath.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Pain, pressure in the back, neck or shoulders
Causes of Upper Back Pain
The minimal movement of the thoracic spine makes it less prone to disc problems, which are common in lower back pain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t develop an upper back pain caused by other factors such as;
Individuals sitting with a rounded back, shoulders hunched forward, staring at a computer screen for long are at a risk of developing upper back pain. A lot of office workers and students fall victims to poor posture while sitting. It’s easy to fall victim of not sitting properly, especially if you are stuck at a desk for 8 hours a day. When lifting something from the ground, you should use proper body mechanisms that protect your spine. Carrying a heavy backpack incorrectly causes pain and injury to the back.
Also, read more about Does Massage Therapy for Back Pain Help Relieve Pain?
Individuals Sitting with a rounded back, shoulders hunched forward, staring at a computer screen for long are at a risk of developing upper back pain. A lot of office workers and students fall victims to poor posture while sitting. It’s easy to fall victim of not sitting properly, especially if you are stuck at a desk for 8 hours a day. When lifting something from the ground, you should use proper body mechanisms that protect your spine. Carrying a heavy backpack incorrectly causes pain and injury to the back.
Trauma or injury
Inevitable and traumatic events such as car accidents can cause upper back pain. Fracture of the spinal bone can press on a spinal nerve causing chronic pain. A compression fracture occurs when an injury to the vertebrae causes them to break and compress on each other. Some spinal bones can break from a minor injury or just twisting the wrong way.
A healthy spine has natural curves and usually seems straight to the eye. Some patients have scoliosis, where the spine curves from side to side often in a C shape. In cases where the patient has kyphosis the upper spine is rounded and looks like a hump.
Degenerative disc disease
This is when the spongy like disc that acts as shock absorbers of the spine wears off and breaks. Disc degeneration can be caused by normal tearing as you age or by repetitive activities that stress your back. A herniated disc commonly occurs in the lower back and neck but rarely occurs in the upper back. The breakdown of disc can cause arthritis, spinal stenosis or a herniated disc.
This is a condition that makes the spinal canal to narrow. This condition may cause back pain and other problems.The narrowing of open spaces can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that run to your arms and legs. Patients complain of tingling sensation in the arms and legs or constant imbalance.
Diagnosis for Upper Back Pain
Your back pain can be chronic limiting your daily activities. If the pain persists, you need to visit a doctor to diagnose the cause of your upper back pain. The physician;
- Gives you a physical do where he observes your posture, motion and physical condition noting the areas causing pain.Muscle problems mainly cause upper back pain, so a physical exam is vital.
- Tests your reflexes, muscle strength, pain spread or nerve change. The neurological exam checks if the spinal nerves have been affected.
- Conduct an imaging test, to know whether mechanical problems in the thoracic spine caused the upper back pains. X-rays, CT scans and M.R.I scans are carried out to show the spinal bones, nerves, and joints effectively
Treatment of upper back pain.
Upper back pain can easily be treated or relieved at home. The frustrating aspect of back pain treatment is that it takes time for the signs to resolve. The tips for relieving back pain include;
- Surgery: This is usually a last resort when the simple steps aren’t enough. However, there are some conditions where surgery may be necessary. The doctor can determine when the surgery may be the appropriate method of treatment.
- Rest: Take a break if your back pain is a lot. Resting too much is also not advisable. Instead gradually resume to daily activities, avoiding things that worsen the pain.
- Over the counter medication: Some drugs reduce the pain and swelling. Caution with medication as some have side effects and can be addictive. Seek a physician’s advice on the right painkillers to take. Conventional medicines are anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen.
- Exercise and proper dieting: exercises that strengthen the back, shoulder and stomach muscles are critical. These muscles support your spine. Strong muscles can improve posture, keeps your body in better posture and reduces chances of injury. Avoid foods that cause high inflammation such as junk food, saturated fats, and sugary drinks. Deep-colored fruits and vegetables are an essential part of the anti-inflammatory diet. Hydrate your body properly as the spine consist of 90% of water.
Upper back pain is not common but when it occurs, follow the simple steps. A healthy body equals a happy you.
Pain point self-massager is the best to relieve upper back pain. Studies have shown that massage helps in relieving pain and facilitating relaxation. The self-massager stick is S- shaped that makes it easy to use and reaches any part of the upper back without hurting the arms or fingers.