Causes And Treatment Of Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain, along with pain in neck and shoulder, has become an increasingly familiar problem in recent years, especially among people who do computer work all day long. But it has long been known, especially as a consequence of sudden trauma or injury. In most cases, upper back pain is the result of either muscular irritation (called myofascial pain) or dysfunction of joints.

Muscular Irritation

The large muscles that attach the shoulder girdle to the shoulder blade, and to the back of thoracic rib cage, can develop painful irritation that is felt as pain in the upper back. Two reasons are responsible for this irritation of the connecting muscles: lack of strength in the muscles and injuries due to repetitive motions (called overuse injuries). Muscular irritation can lead to strained muscles, sports injuries, or some other types of accidents and injuries.


Upper back pain resulting from muscular irritation can be treated well by active and passive physical therapy or by exercise. Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation of muscles is helpful. Massage therapy and acupuncture have also bee used with success in treating muscular irritation. Most of the treatment plans emphasize stretching and strengthening exercises. Sometimes, a specific area in the upper back becomes very tender due to pain caused by trigger points in a skeletal muscle. These points are then treated with massage, acupuncture, and special injections. Pain killers are also prescribed especially the anti-inflammatory medicines for relieving the inflammation associated with muscle irritation.

Dysfunction Of Joints

Joint dysfunction is also a frequent cause of upper back pain. Dysfunction of the two joints that connect the ribs with the vertebrae in the thoracic spine can cause pain in the upper back. To treat this type of pain, the therapist usually conducts manual manipulation for mobilizing the dysfunctional joints. An exercise program is also included in the treatment. To sustain the relief, aerobic conditioning (efficient pumping and oxidation of blood) is considered especially important. Anti inflammatory medicine e.g. ibuprofen is prescribed to provide comfort against the inflammation resulting from joint dysfunction.

Other Causes Of Upper Back Pain

In rare cases, pain in the upper back may be caused by thoracic disc diseases like herniated or degenerated discs. Further, the thoracic vertebrae may get fractured by impact or trauma to the spine. This can cause pain in the upper back. Disc herniations commonly occur in the lumber spine. This condition needs to be diagnosed by using x-rays and/MRI scan before starting treatment.

Related Information and Products