Pain in the upper and/or mid back is not as common than lower back or neck pain. The upper back is called the thoracic spinal column, and it is the most secure part of the spine. The reach of movement in the upper back is limited because of the backbone’s attachments to the ribs (rib cage).
Upper back pain is generally caused by soft tissue injuries, like sprains or strains, muscle tension caused by bad posture, or looking downward for long time spans (eg, texting, mobile phone use).
- Muscle spasm
- Tenderness to touch
What causes or leads to upper back pain?
An episode of upper back pain can be actuated by distinct moves and actions, including:
- Excessive bending
- Whiplash or alternative neck injury
- Lifting improperly
- Poor muscle tone
- Persistent movements, overuse
- Contact sports
- Carrying a load that is heavy
- Being overweight
Poor posture working at the computer for a long time without taking a break to walk around and extend, or in general can promote upper back pain. Both muscle fatigue and muscle pull, which often result from poor posture, can trigger the pain.
So what can I do about it?
Usually, upper back pain is not a cause for worry; however, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and inconvenient. Also, if pain develops suddenly and is serious—such as from an injury (eg, fall)—and, certainly if pain and symptoms (eg, weakness) progressively worsen you should seek medical attention.
Generally, the next home treatments can help relieve back pain that is upper.
- Short term rest
- Mild Stretches
- Over the counter medicine, for example ibuprofen, (Motrin®), naproxen sodium (Aleve®), or acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Take with food, and don’t take more than the recommended dose.
- Use a cold pack that is commercially available or fill a plastic bag with ice and seal it wrap it. Apply to the painful area for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first 2 to 3 days.
- Heat (after the very first 72 hours). After using moist heat, gently stretch the muscles to enhance mobility and alleviate stiffness.
Your physician may prescribe drugs, like a muscle relaxant or perform trigger point injections to greatly help break up muscle spasms. He or she may also recommend physical therapy to increase flexibility, mobility and alleviate pain. Other treatments your doctor may suggest include acupuncture and chiropractic care.
Most cases of upper back pain resolve in 1 to 2 weeks without additional treatment. When you’re able to perform them without pain restart your regular activities slowly. Don’t rush matters, however: you could interfere with your healing and risk reinjury.
As always, abrupt or severe pain ought to be dealt with promptly.
Composed by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD
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