Upper Back Pain

What is Upper Back Pain?

The thoracic spine (also called upper back, middle back, or mid-back) is very different in form and function than the cervical spine (neck) or the lumbar spine (lower back). While the neck and lower back are designed to provide us with mobility, the thoracic spine is designed to be very strong and stable to allow us to stand upright and to protect the vital internal organs in the chest. Because this section of the spinal column has a great deal of stability and only limited movement, there is generally little risk of injury or degeneration over time in the upper back.

Although upper back pain is not a very common spinal disorder, it can cause significant discomfort and pain when it does occur. Upper back pain can arise as a result of trauma or sudden injury, or it can occur through strain or poor posture.

Often, upper back pain occurs along with neck pain and/or shoulder pain.

Causes of Upper Back Pain

The most common causes of upper back pain are:

  • Muscular Irritation (myofascial pain) - due to either deconditioning (lack of strength) or overuse injuries, such as repetitive motions. Muscle strains, sports injuries, auto accidents, or other injuries can all result in pain from muscular irritation.
  • Joint Dysfunction (spinal subluxation) in spine and/or ribs – Physical, chemical or emotional stresses can create alignment and postural issues in the spine. When the spine shifts out of alignment and the posture is affected, it can create tension or compression on spinal nerves, resulting in upper back pain. The ribs connect with the vertebrae in the thoracic spine by two joints that connect with each side of the spine. Dysfunction in these joints can result in upper back pain as well.

Chiropractic Care of Upper Back Pain

Chiropractors are trained to assess and diagnose upper back pain, as well as offer comprehensive upper back pain treatment plans. Care plans are holistic and treatments offer a non-invasive (non-surgical), drug-free approach. At Westwood Total Health, each chiropractor addresses all contributing factors of upper back pain, such as muscular irritation, misalignment, joint dysfunction, injury, ergonomics, exercise and overall health and then develops a customized program to relieve pain, increase mobility and get you back on your feet.

Tips to Prevent Upper Back Pain

Most upper back pain can be prevented. If you want to avoid more pain in the future, take a few easy steps today:

  • Learn—and practice—good posture, whether you're sitting, standing, or moving
  • Exercise regularly. Do cardio workouts (exercise that gets your heart rate elevated to an appropriate level) and strength training.
  • Attain and maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking (if you smoke)
  • Lift properly
  • Eat well—give your body the nutrients it needs to function well
  • Have regular spinal check-ups and spinal adjustments when necessary

Upper Back Pain Research Studies

A study in 2014 involving patients with shoulder pain secondary to second and third rib syndrome who received upper thoracic and upper rib adjustments showed significant reductions in pain and disability and improvement in perceived level of recovery.

  • Spine Health
  • Spine Universe
  • Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics

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