Upper back pain can be very painful. It is often associated with a specific injury, or sometimes may show up without a specific cause. Symptoms may include pain, stiffness, and tenderness. It can be accompanied with range of motion limitations, muscle spasms/trigger points, and can affect your sleep and your everyday activities.

Common causes and risk factors:

  • Poor posture
  • Tech neck
  • Excess weight
  • Excessive sitting
  • Weak core, muscle deconditioning and lack of exercise
  • Muscle overuse, strain, or myofascial pain (chronic muscular pain disorder)
  • Improper lifting
  • Wearing or using too heavy a backpack
  • A car accident or collision
  • Herniated discs, pinched nerves
  • Compression fractures associated with osteoporosis
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Structural deformity like scoliosis (sideways curvature of spine) or kyphosis (forward rounding of upper back)

Treatments and remedies:

  • Stretches and exercises
  • Ice and moist heat
  • Medical treatment such as medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and injections

Preventing Upper Back Pain

  • Take regular breaks when sitting
  • Stretch and exercise regularly
  • Work on maintaining good posture while sitting and standing
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid wearing heavy back packs or purses

Potential serious signs associated with upper back pain that require a consultation with your healthcare provider

  • Pain, tingling, numbness or weakness of your arms and legs
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Slowed reaction time, clumsiness of your arms and legs, or changes in your gait
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Fever
  • Chronic, unrelenting, or severe pain that lingers four to six weeks

David BenEliyahu, DC, FICC
Administrative Director, Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital