The upper back is made up of the 12 bones called the thoracic spine. pain can appear anywhere between the first bone that begins from the base of the neck and the 12th bone that ends below the rib cage. this pain is commonly attributed to muscle overuse, injury, or bad posture.
what are the causes of upper back pain
according to a study by occupational medicine, upper back pain is less common than lower back or neck pain and 1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women might suffer from upper back pain. the causes of upper back pain ( thoracic spine pain or TSP) includes the following:
1 Muscle overuse
muscle overuse occurs when you repeat the same motion over a period of time, this is one of the common causes of upper back pain. this can lead to:
- muscle strain
you may engage in an activity that requires you to lift things above your head for a day or days. this can cause you to experience pain which can turn into a chronic one if ignored.
What to do
- rest the area that was overused
- use heat or ice pack to allow blood circulation to the muscle tissues.
- avoid repeated motion if possible
- you can also take a break between activities.
- Exercise may also be recommended by physical therapists to promote flexibility and strength in the area.
2 Muscle deconditioning and poor posture
just as some people can condition their muscles to be stronger and more enduring through rigorous exercises and training, some can decondition their muscles by incorrectly using them. deconditioning your muscle is as easy as sitting with incorrect posture for a long time. Slouching causes a loss of strength and weakens the muscles that lead to pain and other complications.
you can start to condition your muscle to be durable and stronger by correcting your sitting posture and taking breaks from the desk to stretch and move around. however, if you have chronic upper back pain, you will benefit from seeing a physical therapist.
3 Herniated disc
The disc is soft, rubbery cushions between the vertebra that prevents them from rubbing against each other. herniated discs are a common cause of lower back pain that sometimes occurs in the upper back. other symptoms are numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. some people will need surgery while others just need rest and anti-inflammatory medications.
4 Traumatic Injury
traumatic injury may result from situations like:
- car accidents
- slipping and falling
- work-related accidents
- incorrectly lifting things
- too much or hard work out
This can all lead to back pain which may appear immediately after the accident or maybe developed later or the next day.
A traumatic injury can put a person at risk of lasting complications like nerve damage, chronic pain, or paralysis that might require surgery or the help of a physiologist or physical therapist.
Sometimes, muscles might not be the cause of back pain. it could be an issue with bones and joints. Osteoarthritis is a condition where the cartilage that cushions and protects the bones start to wear down as a person ages. this can lead to the cartilage completely wearing away causing the bones to rub against each other. it is one common form of arthritis according to the National Institute on Aging. See a doctor if you suspect Osteoarthritis.
6 Spinal infection
Spinal infection can cause upper back pain. it is possible for germs and pus to form within the spinal cord and bones of the spine. this is known as a spinal epidural abscess. it can grow and swell, causing pains.
Other conditions that mays cause upper back pain includes
Ways to prevent upper back pain
You may not be able to prevent all the causes of upper back pain but the tips below will help you to avoid the most common ones.
- constantly take a break from sitting, you may lie down, stretch and move different muscle groups
- Take a moment off work to stretch, this will help muscles to loosen and stay strong
- warm-up your body a few minutes before any activities
- get regular massage to ease the tension of muscles.
- be conscious of your walking and sitting posture and be sure they are correct
- Avoid carrying heavy backpacks
- Avoid twisting to lift objects or carrying heavy objects on the back.
Exercises to alleviate upper and neck pain
The following stretches will help you improve blood flow, restore and maintain flexibility, thereby relieving pain. you may engage in all exercise spending 30 seconds to 1 minute on each move
1 Neck side bend and rotation
- Sit or Stand facing front
- tilt your head to the right for 10 seconds, ensure you feel the stretch in your trap muscle
- slowly roll your head in an anticlockwise direction and pause for 10 seconds on the left shoulder.
- repeat the step by rolling in a clockwise direction.
This exercise is good for the neck and upper back.
2 Shoulder roll
- Put both arms down by your side
- move your shoulder backward in a circular motion and complete 5 rotations.
- then five rotations forward.
This exercise is very good for the shoulders and upper back.
3 Overhead arm reach
- Sit on a chair and place your feet forwards.
- Stretch your right arm above your head
- place the left hand on your waist
- bend your torso to the left such that you feel the stretch in your shoulder and right lat
- do the same to your left arm and repeat steps 5 times.
4 Cat cow
- Place both hands on the floor directly under your shoulder and knees directly under your hips.
Tuck out your pelvis and round out your mid-back on your next exhale.
- pull in your navel towards your spine and drop your head to relax your neck.
- Hold for 3-5 seconds, exhale and return to a neutral spine position. then turn the face toward the sky and hold for 3-5 seconds. repeats this exercise 5 times.
5 Knee to chest
- lay on the ground facing up
- bend your left leg towards your chest and hold for 10 seconds.
- do the same to the right leg. do the whole sequence three times.
6 Thoracic extension
- sit on a chair facing forward and extend your upper body such that it falls over the back of the chair.
- Extend your arms over your head for a deeper and hold for 10 seconds. repeat this 3 times.
DIY Home remedy for back pain
1 add camphor in coconut oil, boil it for five minutes. Allow it to cool and pour into a bottle. use this oil to massage your body twice a week before sleeping. this will help to get rid of backache.
2 You can also add a pinch of turmeric and few drops of honey to a warm glass of milk. have this regularly to get rid of backache. turmeric is a spice that has been used to relieve arthritis pain and heartburn
3 you can add ginger to your tea while brewing, this will lower your chances of backache
4 Capsaicin which is derived from hot chili pepper is also useful in relieving pain, it works by depleting a compound that conveys pain sensation to the central nervous system
Back pain is common as a result of lifestyle such as repetitive behaviors which can be relieved through lifestyle changes like exercising and stretching constantly. In cases where you are not sure of the cause of the pain, you should see your doctor.