What is Upper Back Pain and What Can Cause It?

Are you experiencing upper back pain? While upper back pain is less common than neck and lower back pain, it’s still an uncomfortable and stressful experience. Back pain, regardless of the location, can be debilitating. In fact, back pain is one of the leading reasons of missing work and is the second most common reason for visiting the doctor. Let our trusted Las Vegas pain doctors explain to you the different types of upper back pain, its causes, and various treatment options.

Upper Back Pain Explained

Unlike the lower back and neck, the upper back (thoracic spine) is less prone to injury. Compared to the lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine has less mobility. This is because the vertebrae in the upper back are connected to the ribs. This structure provides some extra stability and resistance to injury.

However, when upper back pain does occur, it usually can be felt anywhere from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage. Along with sharp or dull pain, you may feel stiffness, tenderness, muscle spasms, tightness, and headaches.   

Common Causes for Upper Back Pain

Most upper back pain cases are not due to a serious cause. It is usually caused by poor posture or an injury. If your upper back is in pain, it may be due to muscular irritation or joint dysfunction.

Muscular Irritation

There are many large muscles at work in your upper back, and they are prone to strain and irritation. Muscular irritation usually occurs from poor posture, improper lifting, overuse, or muscle deconditioning.

Joint Dysfunction

The joints in your upper back can become painful and not function properly if you sustain an injury. Joint dysfunction may also occur from aging and degeneration.

Other Causes

As mentioned, upper back pain is not normally caused by anything serious and can usually be self-cared for with rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter medications. However, rare infection or illness can cause upper back pain. Also, instability of the thoracic spine can affect nerves or the spinal cord and make pain symptoms worse over time. These instances require medical attention. Also, any back injury sustained from a serious accident, like a car crash or major fall, should be evaluated by a doctor.

Treatment Options for Upper Back Pain

Visit your doctor or back pain specialist to determine the cause of your upper back pain. Depending on the cause of pain and your other health factors, your doctor will prescribe a customized treatment plan for you. Common upper back pain treatment options include: rest, ice/heat, stretching, and over-the-counter pain medications. For more severe pain or muscle spasms, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants or physical therapy.

Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apex Medical Center

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