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Upper Back Pain

Upper Back PainAt the initial signs of pain in the upper back, it is crucial to seek a comprehensive diagnosis to avoid the possibility of a more severe condition. While it might be attributed to muscle strain, there could be underlying issues with your spine. Contact Pro Spine & Pain promptly for a thorough examination and expert recommendations to expedite your recovery and regain the strength of your back.
Regardless of your workout frequency or dietary habits, upper back pain tends to emerge unexpectedly. Several exercise routines may even make matters worse. Upper back pain typically presents as discomfort and aching around the shoulders or neck. However, it can also cause pain specifically in one side of body, such as upper left back pain or upper right back pain. Although not as common or incapacitating as lower back pain, pain in this area can be difficult to manage.

The upper and middle back comprise the thoracic spine, consisting of 12 vertebrae running from the area between your shoulder blades to the cervical spine (base of your neck). If self-care measures like rest and ice prove ineffective, the specialists at Pro Spine & Pain excel in diagnosing back pain and offer the best pain management techniques in Wisconsin.

Causes of Upper Back Pain

Identifying the root cause of upper back pain often requires the expertise of a specialist, as various factors can contribute to the problem.

Some common causes include:

  1. Pulled back muscle: Engaging in activities that demand substantial upper body involvement, such as sports like tennis or baseball, can lead to overexertion, muscle strain, and damage to ligaments and other connective tissue. Furthermore, using improper technique when lifting heavy objects may result in painful soft tissue injuries.
  2. Kyphosis: This is typically associated with age-induced spine malformation due to years of poor posture. In cases appearing before puberty, it is known as Scheuermann’s disease and is often observed in young athletes.
  3. Back injury: Injuries to the neck, back, and ribcage that result from sprains, fractures, awkward movements, impacts, or everyday accidents, can lead to persistent aches and discomfort.
  4. Aging: The upper back undergoes considerable stress over the years, leading to natural deterioration and joint dysfunction. This aging process can reduce flexibility and cause mild to moderate pain.
  5. Herniated disc: The rubbery exterior and gel-like interior of spinal discs, designed to cushion the spine’s bones, may push through a weak part of the spine, causing a herniated disc. This can exert pressure on the nerves within the spinal canal, resulting in severe pain. Both actions and genetic factors contribute to this condition, which more commonly occurs in the lumbar spine.
  6. Pinched nerve: Typically linked to inflammation in the surrounding tissues, a pinched nerve can also be caused by a bone spur. Repetitive motions, prolonged hunching over electronic devices, or improper form in daily activities and exercises can lead to a pinched nerve in the neck or the back.

Symptoms of Upper Back Pain

When confronted with upper back pain, you may encounter various associated symptoms, including:

  1. Reduced mobility
  2. Lethargy or weakness
  3. Difficulty sleeping due to the pain
  4. Deteriorating posture
  5. Neck misalignment
  6. Burning sensations
  7. Muscle spasms

It’s important to recognize that upper back pain could be indicative of a more serious underlying condition, such as infection, fractures, or even cancer or heart attack, particularly if it is left back pain combined with chest pain. Unilateral upper back pain, whether on the right or left side, might suggest issues like whiplash or spinal stenosis. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seeking professional evaluation is essential to determine the appropriate course of action.

Treatment for Upper Back Pain

At Pro Spine & Pain, the approach to upper back pain treatment depends on the diagnosis you receive, with a focus on starting with the least invasive methods.

Various treatment options are available, including:

  1. Light stretching or yoga: Enhanced mobility through gentle stretching or yoga can improve circulation and alleviate pain, particularly in cases of muscular irritation.
  2. Ice and heat therapy: Ice reduces inflammation, while heat promotes better circulation, offering relief.
  3. Physical therapy: Strengthening supporting muscles helps alleviate constant stress on the upper back. Massage can also relax muscles, facilitating stretching and strengthening.
  4. Over-the-counter (OTC) medication: Non-prescription drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can reduce acute pain and swelling. Adherence to your doctor’s instructions is crucial to avoid serious side effects.
  5. Prescription medications: If OTC options prove insufficient, your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs or muscle relaxants.
  6. Topical medications: Various creams and ointments, available in both prescription and non-prescription strengths, offer localized pain relief.
  7. Opioids: While not recommended for chronic pain, under strict supervision, short-term use of narcotics may provide temporary relief, bearing in mind the associated risks of addiction.
  8. Surgery: Reserved for severe structural issues, surgical interventions, even minimally invasive procedures, are typically considered as a last resort.

Preventing Pain in the Upper and Middle Back

Where there are no underlying problems, preventing the majority of upper back pain is within your control. To safeguard yourself from future discomfort, adopt a few simple measures to support good back health:

  • Cultivate and consistently maintain good posture, whether you’re seated, standing, or in motion.
  • Incorporate regular exercise into your routine, including both strength training and cardio workouts that elevate your heart rate to an appropriate level.
    Achieve and sustain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking if you currently do, as numerous studies link cigarette smoking and back pain.
  • Lift objects properly to minimize strain on your upper back.
  • Nourish your body with a balanced diet, providing the essential nutrients it requires for optimal functioning.

The specialists at Pro Spine & Pain specialize in tailoring personalized treatment programs for upper back pain relief based on your specific condition. Their pain management interventions aim to restore an active lifestyle promptly and prevent future occurrences. Contact Pro Spine & Pain today for an initial consultation.

Updated on Apr 26, 2024 by Dr. Thomas Stauss (Pain Management) of Pro Spine & Pain

Thomas Stauss, MD

Thomas Stauss, MD, completed both his undergraduate and medical studies at the esteemed University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Stauss values having access to a wide array of cutting-edge treatment options, ensuring effective relief for his patients' discomfort and a significant enhancement in their quality of life. More specifically, he specializes in utilizing implanted devices to manage chronic pain. Dr. Stauss’s primary objective is to uphold the dignity of each patient while delivering ethical and professional services.

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