What Causes Upper Back Pain?

Pain is not a pleasant experience. But it can be a helpful signal from your body that something has gone awry. Understanding why something hurts is the first step in developing a successful treatment strategy. 

That’s certainly the case with upper back pain, which can be related to anything from muscular strain to bony abnormalities in the spine.

John S. Michels, MD, is an award-winning pain management expert with a thriving practice in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Michels is well-known and widely respected for his skill in accurately diagnosing and effectively treating conditions related to pain. Read what he has to say about upper back pain and what can cause it.

Understanding the upper back

Your spine contains three distinct regions. The lumbar spine (lower back), cervical spine (neck), and the thoracic spine (upper back).

Less mobile overall than the cervical or lumbar spine, the thoracic spine provides vital stability and support for your neck and upper body. It runs from the base of your neck to your abdomen and is attached to your cage. 

The thoracic spine is the longest portion of your backbone and arguably the most complex region of the spine. It’s also vulnerable to injury and other issues that can cause pain.  

Causes of upper back pain

Numerous conditions can lead to upper back pain, the most common of which is muscular strain and injury caused by improper lifting techniques or trauma sustained during a car crash, fall, or other accident.

It’s important to note, though, that muscular injury can also be related to less obvious issues, such as overuse during work or sports activities and/or physical deconditioning. Very often, poor posture causes the muscular and ligamentous strain that leads to upper back pain.

Other conditions linked to upper back pain include:

Many of these issues lead to nerve irritation and inflammation, which may result in pain that travels into your shoulders, arms, or other areas linked to the nerve’s distribution path.

And just to add to the confusion, issues affecting your heart, stomach, and gallbladder, among others, can also trigger pain that you feel in your upper back. It’s imperative that we diagnose the cause of your upper back pain before developing an effective, long-term treatment strategy.

How do you treat upper back pain?

Successful treatment begins with a thorough evaluation that may include X-rays or other diagnostic studies that help identify the underlying cause of your pain.

Depending on those results, your treatment may include:

Dr. Michels’ top priority as a pain management specialist is to relieve your pain in the most effective and conservative way possible while restoring your ability to lead an active and fulfilling life.

For a detailed evaluation and customized treatment strategy regarding your upper back pain, schedule a visit with Dr. Michels today. Call our office or request an appointment online. We’re also temporarily offering telemedicine appointments during the pandemic. Call us for more information.

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