Upper back pain is usually the result of injury, posture problems or overuse of muscles. Most cases of upper back pain can be treated with rest, gentle stretching and exercise and various forms of physical therapy.
This part of your back extends from just under the lowest rib of your ribcage to the cervical region (neck) and is referred to as the thoracic (middle) spine. Pain is usually described by patients as a “burning” sensation, localized to one specific area.
While a quarter of all women will identify an upper back challenge at some point, only about 10% of men will. This discrepancy is probably due to physical differences inherent in biological sex.
Poor Posture and Muscle Weakness
Exercise is one of the most effective defenses against pain in the upper back. That said, improper posture while exercising can undermine the benefits, as well as lead to upper back pain.
Another major cause of upper back pain is poor sitting posture. So many people work in jobs which require them to sit for long periods of time. Without even knowing they’re doing their backs harm, they unconsciously provoke problems in this area by slouching and slumping at their desks.
Seated posture challenges result in the loss of muscle strength in the upper back. When you slouch, gravity is having its way with your spine, throwing its structures out of alignment. Without corrective action, slouching and slumping can lead to arthritis or degenerative disc disease.
Correcting your seated posture is the first step. It’s also important that you take breaks to walk around and stretch. Taking up a program of exercise to strengthen key muscles in the back and mid-section is also highly advisable.
Repetitive motion can lead to pain in the upper back. When muscles in this region of the back are repeatedly called on to perform the same tasks (sports like baseball, physical labor like construction work) regularly, the result is often eventual pain.
Muscle overuse is usually treated effectively with rest and contrast therapy (alternating application of heat and cold sources). Physical therapy will often be recommended to correct any biomechanical issues present and to strengthen muscles affected.
Injuries resulting from trauma may be provoked by slips and falls, car accidents, workplace accidents, lifting heavy loads improperly or improper/overzealous exercise.
While pain from an upper back injury may manifest immediately following injury, sometimes, the pain isn’t felt until the day after. These are the ones you need to look out for, as they can lead to serious, chronic pain. A fractured vertebra, for example, can lead to nerve damage, chronic pain or even paralysis.
These are the most common culprits of upper back pain. If you’re living with upper back pain, a visit to your doctor will set you on the road to feeling better, with conservative interventions that heal the problem.
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