Information and Rehabilitation Advice for:
Upper Back Pain
What is upper back pain?
Your upper back is also called your thoracic back, the part of the back where the ribs attach. Upper back pain is pain between your neck and your lower back.
How does it occur?
The bones in your back are called vertebrae. Back pain is usually caused when ligaments or muscles attaching to the vertebrae are injured. Upper back pain can come from a twisting motion, poor posture, overuse, or an injury such as a fall or car accident. It is very common for someone to injure their upper back when carrying objects, throwing, bending or twisting. Sitting at a desk for a long time can cause upper back muscles to tighten and become stiff. Upper back pain can even come from vigorous coughing or sneezing.
Sometimes upper back pain is caused by scoliosis, a curve in the spine that has developed during the adolescent growth period. In scoliosis there is usually an imbalance of the muscles of the upper back.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of upper back pain may include:
- muscle spasms
- pain when you take a deep breath
- pain when your back is touched or when you move
- pain when you move your shoulders or bend your neck forward
How is it diagnosed?
Your osteopath will take your history, review your symptoms and examine your back.
How is it treated?
The early stages of back pain with muscle spasms should be treated with ice packs for 20 to 30 minutes every 4 to 6 hours for the first 2 to 3 days. You may use a frozen gel pack, crushed ice, or a bag of frozen peas. After you have iced for 2 to 3 days, you may start to use moist heat to help loosen up stiff muscles.
Your osteopath may recommend an anti-inflammatory medicine, muscle relaxants, or other medicine. Massage to the inflamed muscles will help. Your osteopath may recommend exercises to help your back.
When can I return to my normal activities?
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities will be determined by how soon your back recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
It is important that you have fully recovered from your upper back pain before you return to any strenuous activity. You must be able to have the same range of motion that you had before the injury.
What can I do to prevent upper back pain?
Be sure that you have warmed up and have done proper stretching exercises before your activity. Try not to twist when you are lifting heavy objects. If you are at a desk for a long period of time be sure to take frequent breaks to stretch you back.