Your everyday life and general well-being may be negatively impacted by upper back pain, which may be a severe illness. 

Understanding the underlying reasons for your discomfort – a gradual ache or a severe shooting pain – is essential to finding relief. 

In this post, we will examine the seven most typical causes of upper back pain, giving you helpful information to help you recognize and address the root reasons. 

You will be better prepared to appropriately treat your upper back discomfort if you understand these reasons better.

7 common causes of upper back pain

1. Poor posture

Do you frequently catch yourself slumping over your work or slouching in your chair?

Poor posture is one of the main causes of upper back discomfort. Chronic discomfort can result from slumping or sitting in positions that put undue strain on the muscles and ligaments in your upper back [1]. 

The muscles in your upper back weaken and stretch out when you have bad posture, which causes pain and strain.

Make a deliberate effort to sit up straight and maintain excellent posture throughout the day to help ease this problem. 

Regular upper back strengthening exercises can also aid with posture and pain relief by building stronger upper back muscles.

2. Muscle strain

Have you recently done something that needed you to use your upper back muscles? Well, another typical reason for upper back discomfort is muscle strain. 

When your upper back muscles are overworked or overused, this might happen. Lifting heavy things, making abrupt movements, or engaging in vigorous activity without a good warm-up can strain your muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort [2]. 

It’s crucial to use good lifting techniques, to warm up before exercising and to take breaks from repetitive motions so your muscles can recover.

muscle strain
Photograph: Prostock-studio/Envato

3. Injury

Has your upper back lately been damaged, maybe due to a fall or accident? Severe pain may be experienced as a result of upper back injuries, including fractures or sprains. 

Acute or persistent discomfort can result from injuries to the upper back caused by falls, automobile accidents or sports-related mishaps.

You must consult a doctor right away if you think you may have an upper back injury. For a quick recovery, prompt diagnosis and adequate care are crucial.

4. Disc herniation

Do you suffer a sharp ache that travels down your arm from your upper back? The soft cushions that separate the vertebrae in your spine, known as herniated discs or slipped discs, burst or bulge. 

Because of the compression of surrounding nerves, this disease may cause upper back discomfort that may extend down the arm. You could also feel tingling or numbness in the afflicted area in addition to pain [3].

Depending on the severity of the illness, herniated disc treatment options range from conservative methods like physical therapy and pain management to more intrusive interventions like surgery.

5. Osteoarthritis

Do you frequently have discomfort and stiffness in the joints of your upper back, especially after periods of inactivity?

Upper back discomfort may result from osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition frequently affecting the spine. 

This illness develops over time when the protecting cartilage in the joints deteriorates, causing swelling, stiffness and discomfort [4]. 

To treat the signs of osteoarthritis and lessen upper back discomfort, doctors frequently advise gentle exercises, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs.

6. Poor ergonomics

Is your workspace ergonomically unsound? Long periods of sitting at a workstation with poor ergonomics can strain your upper back and cause pain. 

Your muscles and joints may be overworked if your workplace is unsuitable for proper posture and comfort.

Upper back discomfort can be caused by various things, including an uncomfortable chair, a desk that is too high or low and a monitor that is not at eye level [5]. 

To enhance ergonomics, put your monitor at eye level to lessen the strain on your neck and upper back, change the height of your desk and chair to encourage good posture, and ensure your chair provides adequate lumbar support.

7. Stress and tension

Do you typically feel a lot of stress or emotional tension? It may surprise you that stress and mental strain may physically show as upper back discomfort.

Our muscles tend to contract when we are under stress and this tension can build up in the upper back, causing discomfort and suffering. 

Stress can also cause bad posture and harmful coping techniques like slouching or tensing the muscles in the upper back.

Developing good coping mechanisms for stress is critical, like using relaxation techniques, exercising frequently and getting help from family, friends or specialists.

Can upper back pain be a sign of a heart attack?

Not every upper back discomfort indicates a heart condition, even if it might occasionally be a sign of a heart attack.

Everyone’s symptoms are unique, so the connection between upper back discomfort and heart attacks can be complicated.

The main sign of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort, which is frequently characterized as a squeezing or tightness in the chest. The upper back, shoulders, arms, neck and jaw are some examples of additional body parts where the discomfort may occasionally spread. Referred pain is the term for this.

It is important to take into account the concomitant symptoms and risk factors when discussing upper back pain and heart attacks [6]. You should visit a doctor right away if you have severe or chronic upper back pain, especially if it coexists with other symptoms including chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, nausea, sweating, dizziness or pain that radiates down your arm.

Additionally, not all heart attacks exhibit typical symptoms. Instead of conventional chest discomfort, women, elderly people and those with diabetes may encounter unusual symptoms, such as upper back pain.

In order to receive an accurate examination and diagnosis, pay attention to any unusual or chronic discomfort in the upper back. Avoid making snap judgments or self-diagnosing a heart attack based just on upper back discomfort. 

To identify the source of the pain and ensure the right course of therapy, a prompt medical examination is essential. A medical expert will be able to evaluate your symptoms, carry out the required tests and offer an accurate diagnosis to ascertain the underlying reason for your discomfort.

Remember, early intervention is key in managing heart conditions and seeking medical attention promptly can potentially save lives.

How do I get rid of upper back pain?

Even while it’s not always feasible to completely prevent upper back discomfort, there are steps you may do to lessen the risk and the frequency and intensity of episodes. 

You may support a robust and resilient upper back and possibly avoid or lessen upper back discomfort by adding healthy practices into your daily routine. 

Here are some precautions to take into account:

1. Keep a healthy posture

Upper back discomfort is frequently caused by poor posture. Throughout the day, whether you are sitting, standing, or walking, pay attention to your posture. 

Avoid slouching or hunching over and maintain a straight spine and back. To encourage good posture, think about ergonomic solutions like an ergonomic chair or a standing desk.

2. Engage in regular exercise

Regular exercise will help your upper back muscles get stronger, improving your capacity to support your spine and maintain excellent posture. 

Include exercises that work the upper back, such as planks, rows and shoulder presses. Additionally, activities like swimming, yoga and Pilates that increase flexibility and general fitness might be beneficial for your upper back health.

Prevent overuse or overtraining your muscles
Photograph: drazenphoto/Envato

3. Prevent overuse or overtraining your muscles

Overusing or overstraining your upper back muscles can cause pain and discomfort. Use good body mechanics, take pauses and pay attention to your body’s limits when performing tasks that require lifting, carrying, or repeated actions. 

When required, use assistive equipment or seek assistance to lessen the tension on your upper back.

4. Control your stress levels

Tension and stress can cause physical symptoms, including a sore upper back. Find healthy coping mechanisms for stress, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, regular exercise, indulging in hobbies or getting help from family, friends or specialists. 

You may ease the muscular tension that causes upper back discomfort by lowering your stress levels.

5. Practice proper lifting techniques

When lifting something heavy, maintain your back straight, bend your knees and lift the weight with your leg muscles. As much as you can, avoid twisting or jerking actions, which might strain your upper back.

Practice good lifting methods since bad lifting skills can cause upper back injuries and muscular tension. 

6. Ensure proper ergonomics

Make sure your workspace and everyday activities are ergonomically friendly by evaluating them. To encourage good posture, sit in an ergonomic chair and set your desk at the optimum height. 

In addition, to prevent pressure on your neck and upper back, raise the computer screen to eye level. For other tasks like driving or using portable gadgets, make ergonomic adaptations.


Photograph: gstockstudio/Envato

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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