The course of upper back pain and how to treat it depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Even in cases where it seems obvious what started the upper back pain, such as an injury from a fall, the specific source of pain within the body can sometimes remain elusive.
Regardless of whether the exact source of upper back pain can be determined, it helps to know the various potential causes in order to better narrow down which treatments may be best.
Common Causes of Upper Back Pain
When the upper back becomes painful, it is most likely due to an injury that has resulted in muscular irritation or joint dysfunction. Some of the more common causes of upper back pain are:
- Poor posture. Living a sedentary lifestyle or routinely sitting for long periods with poor posture can cause structural changes in the back and neck. The muscles can become deconditioned and weak, and thus not hold the spine in neutral alignment as easily as before. As the head and shoulders hunch forward, more pressure is placed on the spine’s bones, discs, muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues. If a person leans to one side more often, such as while driving or working at a computer, that could also cause an imbalance in the upper back that leads to pain.
- Improper lifting technique. Lifting a heavy object without keeping the spine aligned can put undue stress on the upper back. In particular, lifting or holding a heavy object above the head, especially more toward the left or right as opposed to centered, can leave the shoulder and upper back susceptible to injury. Lifting an object that is too heavy can also cause upper back pain.
- Overuse. Putting the upper back through more work than usual, such as by spending a day helping a friend move into a new apartment or painting a ceiling (working above the head), could cause muscle strains, ligament sprains, and inflammation in the upper back.
- Accident or collision. Trauma from a vehicular accident (car or bike crash), a fall from height (down steps or from a ladder), or sports collision (football, hockey, etc.) can cause upper back pain by injuring spinal bones, discs, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and/or other soft tissues.
Sometimes there can be a combination of causes, such as from both overuse and improper lifting technique.
Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has two convenient locations in Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park – Long Island. Call the Richmond Hill office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for Long Island office, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.