Causes of Upper Back Pain

upper back pain

Many people all around the world are worried about their back pain. Mostly, people have upper back pain and lower back pain. In this article, we will talk about the upper back pain, their causes, and how to prevent. Usually, people feel back pain, especially in the winter season. However, you can get rid of this pain with the help of some preventions and cure.

Sometimes, people sit in poor posture and get the upper back pain; however, they also feel stressed due to muscle overuse or injury. You can prevent yourself from this pain by some remedies such as rest and simple exercises. If the condition persists, you should see the physical therapist.

Where is the Upper Back Area?

The upper back area starts from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage. Twelve bones are involved in the upper back, and doctors usually call it the thoracic spine. The twelfth bone ends just below the rib cage. People feel this pain as burning or pulling sensation in one place and also feel strain in the muscles, especially at the location of the injury if the person gets injured.

upper back pain
Upper back pain

Symptoms of Upper Back Pain:

  • When you breathe deeply, you feel pain in the upper back area.
  • When someone touches you or when you move, you feel pain in your back.
  • Also, when you move your shoulders or bend your neck, you feel pain.
  • You also feel tightness in the muscles like a knot; a condition called muscle spasms.

What are the Causes of upper back pain?

Upper back pain is caused by many factors, also called TSP or Thoracic Spine Pain.

Muscles Overuse:

Overuse of muscles is the leading and common cause of upper back pain. Muscles overuse usually happen when we repeat the same motions again and again. Muscle overuse can cause tiredness, irritation, and muscle strain.

upper back pain
Muscles overuse also causes upper back pain

One of the examples of muscle overuse is the labourer when he repeats the same motion again and again. Muscle overuse can lead to chronic pain if you ignore the pain. However, you can treat the muscles overuse by taking enough rest. You can also get rid of upper back pain by using heat or ice packs to increase the blood circulation in a particular area of pain.

Infection in the Spine:

Infection in the spine, also called a Spinal Epidural Abscess, which is the collection of germs and passes in the bones of the thorns. It is a severe condition. However, some antibiotics can help to reduce the infection, but sometimes surgery is necessary to reduce the risk of complications during the operation. The doctors clear the germs from the spinal cord to prevent the patient from any severe complications.

upper back pain

Lung Cancer:

Lung cancer is a sporadic case that causes upper back pain. It is because cancer spreads to the bones and causes upper back pain. Due to lung cancer, people who get upper back pain are only between 30 to 40%.

Poor Posture:

Poor posture can also lead to pain in the upper back. For example, we usually sit at a desk with an incorrect position for a long time, which will cause strain in a particular area. So, to avoid tensions and irritation in the neck muscles and upper back muscles, we have to maintain good posture, especially during sitting. We can also get rid of this pain by having regular breaks from the desk to move around and stretch ourselves.

Traumatic Injury:

The traumatic injury will cause due to different types of car accidents, lifting weights incorrectly, different kinds of slips and Falls, accidents related to work, and working too hard during different types of jobs. You can also have the danger of getting fractures in the vertebrae during a traumatic injury. You should see your doctor help muscle injuries heal properly. Your physiologists or physical therapist know very well how to treat you during this type of damage so that you can heal properly to avoid long term pain.

upper back pain


Osteoarthritis is the common cause of getting the joints pains, also the pain in the upper back and lower back. We all know that when we age, the cartilage which protects our bones wears down. This cartilage also cushions our bones for smooth movements of bones. When this cartilage wears down to a great extent, then it causes the bones to rub together. The person feels pain in the joints because of the rubbing of the bones. Doctors usually suggest different types of treatments to keep the joints functioning.

Pinched Nerve:

When the herniated disc slips out, then it compresses the particular nerve near it. This is called the pinched nerve. A pinched nerve can cause weakness in the legs; you have a problem with controlling urination, and the person also feels pain in the arms and legs. The treatment for a pinched nerve is the same as a herniated disc. Some doctors suggested steroid injections to treat a pinched nerve.

upper back pain

Herniated Disc:

There are soft and rubbery cushions between each vertebra. It is a condition when a piece of this disc slips or pokes through and put some pressure on the spine. The patient feels weird pain even when a small amount of pressure put on the spine or back. The patient also feels weakness in the arms and legs to treat the herniated disc. Doctors usually suggest anti-inflammatory medications, and the patient also recovers with rest.

Medical treatment for upper back pain:

Pain Medications:

Doctors usually advise prescribed pain medications to relieve the upper back pain. The drugs that the patient takes are Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs called NSAIDs. Patients may also use opioids, which prevent the pain signals from reaching the brain. The muscle relaxants are also advised by many doctors who work as a sedative for the neuromuscular system.

upper back pain
Medication is very important for upper back pain


Injections may also cause relief of pain in the patients, but they are not considered as an excellent long-term solution. There are many spinal injections which can block the spinal pain, for example, an epidural steroid injection that causes the reduction of pain by delivering a steroid medication in or near the pain area. Injections are usually used to treat acute or chronic back pain. These injections being useful at a point by creating a heat lesion on a pain transmitting nerve. This injection does prevent sending pain signals to the brain. Medial branch blocks, sacroiliac joint injections, selective nerve root block injections are frequent injections for preventing upper back pain.

upper back pain

Physical Therapy:

Though you have upper back pain, you have been consulting a physical therapist or any other medical professional. This physical therapy can design a set of a physical therapy program to relieve the pain in the upper back. They advise you different techniques to strengthen or stretch the upper back muscles along with the neck muscles. Within a few weeks, you will feel a marked relief of pain in the upper back and also the neck area. Usually, there are two types of therapies that the physical therapist often suggests, such as passive physical therapy and active physical therapy. In passive physical therapy, there are heat or ice packs, iontophoresis, or TENS units. However, aggressive physical therapy, there include back pain exercises and also strengthening the back muscles.

upper back pain

Other Treatments for Relieving Upper Back Pain:


Acupuncture is widely used by many practitioners all over the world to relieve neck pain, upper back pain, and lower back pain. Keep in mind that this is a non-traditional treatment option for back pains and neck pains. However, there are many practitioners and health professionals who start using acupuncture to reduce the pain in the patient. Acupuncture is usually originated from China. It is a Chinese Medical Treatment for relieving pain. There are some points on the human body, which connect with 20 Pathways, which are called meridians. These points exceed 2000, and in acupuncture, small metallic needles are inserted in these specific points to increase the normal flow of qi. Qi I mean vital energy or life force of the body also pronounced as chee. 

Manual manipulation:

For manual manipulation, some chiropractors are using more than a hundred types of adjustment techniques to alleviate the pain. In this technique, chiropractors use a different kind of hand thrust to restore an enhanced joint function. During this manual manipulation, the patient feels more relaxed and reduced pain in the joints. Also, the inflammation in the joints is reduced. It is also called spinal manipulation, which is the first chiropractic adjustment. It is also called the diversified technique or the High-Velocity Low Amplitude Thrust or HVLA.


In electrotherapy, the doctors usually send small electric pulses to the area of pain for alleviating upper back pain or any other type of back pain. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator called TENS is the most popular type of electrotherapy for reducing pain in patients. In this technique, doctors usually use small adhesive pads for placing electrodes at different locations, which are the painful region. Also, these sticky pads are placed near the painful area for alleviating pain.

upper back pain

Mindful Meditation:

Sometimes, meditations also play a vital role in the reduction of pain. These are different meditation and breathing techniques, including yoga, to reduce the upper back pain. Because of this mindful meditation, the patient felt stress reduction and found it to be as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy for improving patients’ ability to deal with chronic back pain. In this mindful meditation, yoga is the most popular meditation, which is famous all over the world. Due to yoga, the patient will feel relieving pain, relaxation of the muscles, and increasing the strength and flexibility of the flesh. 


Massage is also a viral treatment for alleviating upper back pain. With the help of massage, the blood flow in the painful area is increased, and it also helps to lose and tight muscles. However, the effects of massage are temporary, but the patient feels relief in a particular area for some time after the massage. You can also do yourself a massage if you have upper back pain with the foam roller or ball. Your family member or any of your friends can also do your massage in the upper back area. Still, usually, the doctor suggests massage from the professional to get the desired results.

upper back pain

Lifestyle changes for preventing upper back pain:

Keep the Good Posture:

You will not develop upper back pain if you are maintaining a better posture while sitting standing or any other kind of work activity. Keep your head in an upright position to put less stress on the neck and back. You should maintain a good posture while sitting, walking, or lifting any heavy object.

Exercises to Become Active:

There are many exercises to reduce upper back pain

  • You can go for regular walks and can also do hiking as it will strengthen your body muscles. 
  • When you do certain types of daily exercises, then you can reduce the risk of developing pain. 
  • Walking upright and different types of stretches, such as I-Pose, W-Pose, and Head Tilt, are the main exercises to reduce the symptoms of upper back pain. 
  • With the help of exercise, there is a reduction in stiffness of the muscles and also improves mobility.
  • Exercise releases endorphins, which are very helpful in pain relief. You will not have to take lots of medicines after you do exercise regularly.
  • You should maintain exercise for long term periods if you have mild upper back pain. However, you should consult a professional who suggests particular activities in chronic pain.

Avoid Smoking:

The people who usually smoke have more chances of getting chronic upper back pain rather than people who do not smoke. There is a degeneration of spinal discs in the people who smoke. This is because the people who smoke get the nicotine in their blood, and the blood flow reduces the flow of nutrients into the discs. So, the people who have upper back pain should quit smoking to prevent themselves from severe pain conditions. The patients can quit smoking with the help of psychological or behavioural changes. If you are a regular smoker, then you must need an anti-smoking medication. 

upper back pain

Upper back pain exercises

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