Back pain is the worst. Anywhere! Upper, middle, lower, it doesn’t matter where it’s located, back pain is very uncomfortable. We have discussed lower back pain causes, lower back pain relief, and gave some lower back pain stretches at home.
Upper back pain is less common than lower back pain. Your upper back is the region right below the neck (cervical spine) and just above the low back (lumbar spine). The upper back is also known as the thoracic spine.
The thoracic spine is what connects our head and neck to our body. It is there for stability. To help us stand up straight and with the help from the ribs, the thoracic spine also works to protect our internal organs in the chest.
Because this area of the spine has a lot of stability and doesn’t move all that much, there is lower risk of injury or degeneration in the upper back. But there is a familiar complaint from people about their upper back hurting.
To know how to treat upper back pain and get relief, we first need to know WHY we are getting upper back pain. Once we know where it is coming from then we can determine how to relieve it. Here are 4 common causes of upper back pain.
Overuse and repetitive movements
Overuse of any muscle isn’t good. Muscle strain is very common and can happen with repetitive movements, heavy lifting, or using the muscles too much. The large upper back muscles are prone to tightness, and myofascial pain. This is can lead to pain in the upper back.
MOST COMMON! Poor posture is a cause of a lot of pain in our body. So why don’t we just sit up straight? Walk tall? It’s just something that we’re not used to!
Many people are used to hunching over their cell phones or computers and as a result their spine has formed its shape that way and lost the natural s-curve. Many people that have upper back pain have said that they sit with poor posture for long periods of time.
Carrying heavy bag or backpack
An overloaded bag is dangerous to the spine. If you are carrying a backpack that feels too heavy after about 5 minutes then you should probably take it off your shoulders.
The heavy weight of the bag will force you to feel like you need to hold onto the straps, hunch your shoulders and just keep pushing forward. This will cause the alignment of the thoracic spine to slowly get tweeked and the muscles will begin feeling fatigued.
Whiplash, car accident
Another common cause of upper back pain is injury. Whiplash can strain your neck, shoulders, upper back and sometimes all the way down to your lower back. The injury that feels the worst will be the pain near the injury or where you felt the whiplash. Car accidents can cause injury like this and can sometimes cause upper back pain.
A few uncommon causes
Other medical conditions
According to Spine Health, people who work at computers most of the day complain more about upper back pain than those who don’t work at a computer all day. Typically upper back pain can be noticed with shoulder or neck pain as well.
Upper back pain can limit our mobility and range of motion and can spread to other parts of our back.
We discussed some exercises to help upper back pain at home and we also mentioned Dr. Guevara’s posture test in an earlier post. This can help you determine if you have upper back pain due to poor posture!
It’s called the ‘Mirror Test.’
Stand in front of a mirror with your hands hanging down to your side. If your palms are facing the sides of your body, the outside of your thighs, than you have a stable posture. If your palms are facing what’s behind you, then you will notice that your shoulders are more hunched forward creating tension in between your shoulder blades.
There can be other causes of upper back pain that can be diagnosed, but listed above are common causes of upper back pain.