The upper back, known as the thoracic spine, is the area between the neck and lower back.
Stiffness, muscle spasms, and pain are common symptoms.
Individuals also complain of pain presenting when breathing deep, various types of body movements, or when the area is touched.
- Poor posture
- Sitting for a long time
- Hard coughing
- Hard sneezing
- Carrying an overstuffed backpack
All can lead to upper back pain.
Scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the thoracic spine, sometimes causes upper back pain.
Rhomboid Muscle Strain/Spasm
Muscle strain is one cause of upper back pain.
These muscles help form the upper back and attach to three spinous processes.
The spinous processes are small bones on the back.
The rhomboid helps move the shoulder blades.
Rhomboid muscle strain and spasm are known to cause pain, especially between the shoulder blades.
Individuals compare the muscle spasms and discomfort to knots.
Upper Back Pain Treatment
If possible getting early treatment can speed healing and recovery.
Ice therapy is recommended for the first few days followed by heat therapy.
- Ice packs
- Ice cubes in a bag
- A bag of frozen peas
Wrapped in a towel can be applied 20 minutes every 4-6 hours.
Heat treatment can start after two to three days of ice treatment.
The heat source should be wrapped in a towel, and removed before sleep.
Upper Back Stretching
Under a doctor’s guidance, these stretches and exercises can help relieve stiffness and pain.
Beginning with short three sets of five and gradually increase as the symptoms allow.
Take it slow and easy.
Stand against a wall:
- Position arms against a wall
- Palms face the wall
- Keep arms against the wall
- Slowly slide them up above the head, or as high as comfortably possible
- Reverse and move arms down
- Relax and repeat
- Sit or stand with arms at the sides
- Squeeze and hold the shoulder blades together for 5 seconds
Upper Back Stretch
- Sit in a chair
- Cross both arms behind the head
- Bend forward gently
- Slowly arch backward
Upper back pain that results from injury should be looked at by a doctor/healthcare provider.
If home therapy fails to relieve symptoms call a doctor
They may recommend:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
- Muscle relaxants
- Trigger point injections can break the muscle irritability pattern and spasms
- Chiropractic treatment
- Physical therapy
All can help relax muscles, relieve pain and increase mobility.
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Pain in the upper and/or mid-back is not as common as 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).