Often felt in the neck and shoulders, upper back pain can range from mild to severe. Understanding some of the common causes of this type of pain can make it easier for patients to identify possible trigger points and, more importantly, know when to seek medical attention.
Large muscles connect the shoulder to the back via 12 vertebrae. Whether it’s from overdoing it at the gym or strain from working at a computer all day, these muscles are highly susceptible to stress and strain. Muscular irritation can also be caused by:
- Lack of muscle strength
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Traumatic injury
Treating Muscular Irritation
Unless there is identifiable damage to muscles and tissues, conservative treatments often provide relief for this type of upper back pain. Patients may be directed to a physical therapist or chiropractor. Trigger point injections with a local anesthetic and pain medications may also provide relief.
Two joints connect vertebrae in the upper spine with the rib cage. Abnormalities or dysfunctions with these joints can result in upper back pain. A compression fracture in the upper spine can also weaken joints. Joint dysfunction may also be caused by:
- Long-term poor posture
- Abnormal movements
- Extreme force
Treating Joint Dysfunction
Manual manipulation and temporary mobilization are among the most common treatments for upper back pain resulting from a joint dysfunction. Home exercises and chiropractic manipulations may also provide relief by strengthening supporting muscles and relieving joint stress. Epidural steroid injections are sometimes recommended, but usually not necessary for pain in this area.
Characterized by the wearing away of cartilage that connects joints to the backbone, osteoarthritis sometimes affects joints in the upper back. Conditions such as thoracic stenosis, a narrowing of the upper portion of the spinal canal, and disc herniation may also result in upper back pain.
Symptoms of upper back pain don’t always have a clear rhyme or reason. Some people may experience discomfort that starts out slowly while others may feel sudden pain. Treatments can be just as diverse, often including anti-inflammatory and pain medications, physical therapy, and the avoidance of certain movements.
For individuals living with chronic back pain, it might be time to speak with an experienced spine specialist about options for pain relief. From conservative methods to interventions like spine surgery, a professional can diagnose your problem and help you understand the best possible treatment options. Call (310) 828-7757 to learn more and schedule an in-person consultation.