Upper back pain, unlike lower back, is not common. It is characterized by pain and discomfort in the neck, upper back, or middle back. The pain occurs between the bottom of the neck to the base of the rib cage. There are twelve vertebrae in the upper and middle back. These vertebrae are attached to the rib cage, and work in cooperation with the rib cage to keep the organs protected. Because the vertebrae are attached to the rib cage, they do not move or flex as much as the vertebrae in the lower back. Because of this, pain is not as common in the upper back. A number of things can cause upper back pain, including bad posture, excessive weight, or injury.
Upper back pain is usually caused by bad posture, trauma, sudden injury, or strain that occurs over a period of time. Many people who sit at desks all day and work at computers suffer from lower back pain. The upper back muscles are more prone to developing irritation, so muscle irritation is another common cause of upper back pain. This irritation is the result of the de-conditioning of the muscles, or because of sports injuries or overuse of the muscle. Dysfunction in the joints of the upper back is also another cause of upper back pain. The vertebrae in the upper back are fairly stable, so disc herniation or other spinal disorders that occur in the lower back are not common in the upper back. However, it is still possible, and makes up for less than one percent of all cases of upper back pain. Degenerative disc disease is another uncommon cause of upper back pain. Other things like old age, excessive weight, and even smoking can cause upper back pain. Bad posture is another cause as well. Lastly, when injury happens, a crack in the vertebrae of the upper back can occur, resulting in pain.
Symptoms of upper back pain include a dull or sharp pain in the upper back region. In addition, muscle tightness or stiffness is another common symptom. Less common symptoms include a weak feeling in the arms or legs, tingling in the arms and legs, or even loss of bladder control. To diagnose upper back pain, an X-ray or MRI scan is done. Your doctor will also examine your health history, and what physical activities you engage in on a daily basis.
Upper back pain is treated with the use of exercises, medications, and sometimes injections. Patients with upper back pain are prescribed a variety of stretches and exercises, which will help, strengthen the muscles in the upper back to relieve pain. If the exercises and stretches are done on a daily basis, the pain will slowly disappear over time. One should also examine daily activities, and work to improve posture. As a short-term solution, pain medications like Ibuprofen can be used for pain alleviation. In more serious cases, surgery may be needed to correct upper back pain. Surgery is usually only needed in cases of injury caused by sports or accidents.