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Everything You Need To Know About Upper Back Pain

Learn what upper back pain is, what causes it, and how routine chiropractic care can provide natural relief.

New Patient Special
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Upper Back Pain is a very common concern for many people. In fact, one study showed that 9% of men and 17% of women reported at least some upper back pain1. The prevalence of upper back pain has seen an increase due to our technological world where many find themselves hunched over a computer for 8+ hours of the day. It can occur anywhere between the base of the neck and the bottom of your shoulder blades and is commonly found together with neck and shoulder pain.

However, no matter where exactly your upper back pain is located, it can range in severity from mild irritation and annoyance to severely debilitating pain. This can negatively affect your quality of life as you struggle to find a comfortable position; become limited in the daily activities you can perform due to pain; suffer from sleep disturbances and experience bouts of weakness.

Fortunately, you can find relief for upper back pain and prevent future flare-ups naturally by visiting our doctors at Spine Stop Chiropractic to develop a personalized treatment plan based on your individual needs.

What is Upper Back Pain?

To fully understand upper back pain, it is necessary to understand the anatomy of the back. The upper back contains several vertebrae (bones) that attach to your rib cage as well as muscles, ligaments, and nerves that allow the spine to move. Between each vertebra is a disc that absorbs the shock of movement and provides protection from vertebrae rubbing together.

Although often caused by muscle strains, upper back pain can also signal something wrong with the spine and the supporting structures and tissues.

The most common causes of upper back pain include:

  • Muscle Strain - muscles in the back may become sore and painful because of an injury or overuse, such as twisting movements or repetitive tasks
  • Poor Posture - slouching and/or hunching over for long periods of time can cause upper back pain
  • Lifting or Carrying - pushing, pulling, or lifting heavy items puts strain on your entire spine. Carrying heavy backpacks on both or one shoulder or heavy grocery bags, etc., also pulls on the muscles between the shoulder blades causing pain
  • Injury - Injuries to the muscles, vertebrae, ligaments, and discs can occur from a traumatic event such as a car accident or even from exercising, lifting too heavy of an object, etc.
  • Scoliosis - curvature of the spine sometimes causing pain due to muscle fatigue, muscles spasms, sciatica, and a misaligned spinal structure
  • Osteoarthritis - degeneration of the joints caused by wear and tear over time
  • Herniated Disc - one or more of the discs between the vertebrae bulge and put pressure on the nerve causing pain
  • Referred Pain - pain originating from the neck, shoulders, or lower back that radiates to your upper back

Other positions that may put a strain on muscles in the upper back include:

  • Sitting at a desk for long hours
  • Using an uncomfortable chair
  • Leaning over a smartphone or laptop for long periods
  • Sleeping with a pillow that does not properly support the head and neck
  • Crossing the legs when in a sitting position

In rare cases, other medical conditions such as heart attacks or injuries to the lungs can cause referred pain in the upper back. You should call 911 if you notice any symptoms of a potential heart attack such as upper back pain accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, jaw pain, or nausea.

What are the symptoms of upper back pain?

Upper back pain varies from person to person and sufferers usually describe back pain as:

  • Burning or sharp pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades, lower neck, and shoulders
  • Pain that is throbbing/aching
  • Muscle stiffness and/or cramping
  • Pain radiating along the nerves
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness

Upper back pain is also often felt in the shoulders and neck which can limit your range of motion. For example, you may be unable to turn to look over your shoulder due to pain in the neck, shoulder, and upper back which can also lead to headaches.

Upper back pain can start slowly and develop over time, or it can come on very quickly such as in the case of an injury. It generally falls into two categories: joint dysfunction or muscular irritation and your chiropractor will design your treatment plan based on your individual needs.

If left untreated, upper back pain can become a chronic condition with worsening symptoms so it is essential to seek treatment at the first sign of pain.

How can chiropractic care help me?

Maintaining good posture, exercising to keep the muscles in the shoulders and upper back strong, and avoiding heavy lifting or carrying heavy items on your back and/or shoulder can help prevent upper back pain.

However, if you are already suffering from upper back pain, there are natural chiropractic treatments that can help you find the relief you deserve so you can get back to your normal activities.

Gentle spinal and whole-body adjustments performed by a licensed chiropractor at Spine Stop Chiropractic allow the body's systems to function correctly by removing blockages, pressure, and inflammation. This allows your body to heal naturally while strengthening the spine to help prevent future occurrences and pain.

Chiropractic Benefits for Upper Back Pain Include:

  • Natural, effective pain relief
  • Strengthens your body’s main support structures
  • Helps prevent future flare ups
  • Restores movement and mobility
  • Proactive care to support nerve health, blood flow, and overall body wellness
  • Education and lifestyle recommendations to enhance healing, balance, strength, and more

If you or a loved one are suffering from upper back pain, book an appointment today to see how our doctors can help restore your quality of life.

We understand that not everyone is familiar with chiropractic care, so all new patients receive a consultation, examination and if necessary, an x-ray. Then our doctors will review your condition and walk you through an easy-to-follow treatment plan that’s unique to you.

There’s no pressure when you visit our office. Our friendly staff want to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

  1. Fouquet N, Bodin J, Descatha A, et al. Prevalence of thoracic spine pain in a surveillance network. Occup Med (Lond). 2015;65(2):122-5.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Calm your nerves with answers to the most commonly asked questions among new patients.

Do I have to be popped during my treatment?

Simply put, no. There are many adjusting techniques chiropractors use to remove nerve interference. Let the doctor know if you're concerned about being "popped."

Does it hurt to be adjusted by a chiropractor?

Most patients report painless adjustments. However, some experience involuntarily stiffness due to resisting the adjustment. This usually stops once they're able to relax.

How long does the average office visit take?

The first visit usually requires 30 to 45 minutes of a new patient's time. The following appointments usually last 10 to 15 minutes.

What's the difference between a chiropractor and a medical doctor?

Chiropractors remove nerve interference by correcting the spine's position. A medical doctor often refers patients to prescription drugs or surgery for pain management.

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