Lower back pain is the leading cause of work-related disability, not to mention one of the most common reasons people see a doctor. However, upper back pain linked to inflamed tissues, herniated cervical discs, strained muscles, or a fractured vertebra can be just as disruptive to your daily routine. If you’re living with upper back pain, here are five ways you may be able to treat or manage it.
1. Improve Your Posture
Doing things like hanging your head down to look at various tech devices or slouching in your chair at work may not seem like a big deal. However, if these actions occur on a regular basis, you could be placing added pressure on muscles that support your cervical spine. Steps you can take to improve your posture include:
- Using an ergonomically designed chair and adjusting it properly
- Keeping your head and shoulders aligned
- Performing upper body, neck, and shoulder stretches
- Being mindful of your posture when sitting and standing
2. Do Exercises That Help Your Upper Back
Weakened muscles contribute to both lower and upper back pain. One way to treat and manage upper back discomfort is to do exercises that specifically target muscles that provide upper spine support. For example, isometric exercises can target muscles in the neck and upper back. These exercises involve pushing against resistance without moving the targeted muscle. You may also benefit from:
- Arm reaches and slides
- Thoracic extensions
- Shoulder rolls
- Low-impact aerobic exercises like stationary biking (to increase circulation)
3. Don’t Ignore Your Lower Back
Just because your upper back is demanding attention doesn’t mean your lumbar (lower) spine should be ignored altogether. In fact, issues with the lower back sometimes contribute to issues higher up. Make sure you include exercises that also target your lower back and core muscles like the abdominals and the erector spinae muscles that travel along each side of the vertebral column. Also, pay attention to your lower body posture since misalignments lower down can affect upper body alignment as well.
For times when you can’t do a full exercise routine, stretching can be a quick way to ease muscle tension and minimize inflammation. Even something as simple as taking a few minutes before work to roll your neck or move your arms from one side of your body to the other (cross-body arm stretches) may be enough to boost circulation and relieve muscle tension.
5. Adjust Your Diet
The foods you eat or don’t eat on a regular basis can also affect your upper back. For instance, sugary snacks and processed foods can increase the production of chemicals that contribute to inflammation. Conversely, increasing your intake of foods with essential nutrients like calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D, and lean proteins can increase the strength of cervical spine bones, joints, and soft tissues. A diet that’s good for your upper back includes:
- Green, leafy veggies
- Plenty of water
- Healthy carbs and fats
Unless the neck is involved, you are less likely to need surgery for upper back pain. Part of the reason for this is because this part of the spine is more difficult to reach than the lower back. Even so, persistent or worsening pain in this part of the spine or nearby areas shouldn’t be ignored. Getting an accurate diagnosis from a Beverly Hills spine surgeon makes it more likely you’ll experience much-appreciated relief.
At The Spine Institute, we specialize in procedures such as minimally invasive neck surgery. Beverly Hills patients can trust Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.