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Upper Back Pain Causes and Treatment 


Upper Back Pain

The upper back is located between the neck and the bottom of the rib cage and made up of twelve vertebrae. Its commonly referred to the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is designed to be strong and stable to allow us to stand upright and to protect the vital internal organs in the chest. As this area is very stable, it is less prone to the injuries experienced by the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower) spine. Upper back pain can occur anywhere between these bones and irritation around this area can also cause neck pain and shoulder blade pain. Are you experiencing pain in your upper back? Read below to find out more about upper back pain causes and treatment.

 A large proportion of people suffering from upper back pain may attribute their pain to their duties at work, or an accident at work. Nathan Briganti of Briganti Physiotherapy, a musculoskeletal specialist physiotherapist, working within NHS, Private Practice and Professional sport has provided some useful information on upper back pain causes and treatment/ tips on how to relieve this type of pain.

    Upper back pain causes and treatment

    Pain in the thoracic spine is rarely serious but if its not resolving in the expected time frames or you have any of the below factors please contact a medical professional urgently:

    ·        Age <20 or >55

    ·        Recent history of trauma

    ·        Constant progressive pain not alleviated with lying down or rest

    ·        Past history of cancer

    ·        Long history of steroid use

    ·        Immunosuppressed/HIV

    ·        History of Tuberculosis

    ·        Substance Abuse

    ·        Systematically feeling unwell

    ·        Unexplained weight loss

    ·        Neurological symptoms in upper or lower legs

    ·        Deformity of the spine.

    Common Causes of Upper Back Pain

    The upper back is essential for balance and strength to keep the body upright. Upper back pain is not as common as lower back pain, but there are many different causes of upper back pain that we experience every day. Upper back pain causes, and treatment will vary, so it is best to have your pain assessed by a medical professional to obtain a diagnosis. Some of the main causes of upper back pain include:

    ·            Poor Posture– Staying in one position for too long can cause some muscles to over stretch and others to tighten to compensate. Prolonged bad posture can lead to systematic weakness and development of pain. 

    ·            Repetitive Movements– Upper back pain is common when repeating the same motions over-time, causing muscle irritation, tightness, and strain to the muscles and soft tissues. This affects mostly people who work in manual labour jobs and carry out repetitive tasks, such as lifting and moving objects continuously throughout the day. Existing pain in your upper back could turn into chronic pain if you ignore these signs.

    ·            Traumatic Injuries caused by accidents– Traumatic injuries such as those sustained through car accidentsslips, trips and fallswork-related accidents (e.g. incorrect lifting), and accidents at the gym, can cause long-term upper back pain and problems. The pains can appear either straight after the incident or start to develop later on the next day. Injuries caused by accidents can include sprains or strains, as well as more serious spinal cord injuries which can lead to chronic pain, nerve damage and paralysis.

    ·            Medical conditions – There are many medical conditions which can lead to upper back pain which may last for a long time. The most common conditions are listed below:

    ·            Myofascial Pain- Is pain characterized by tightness, tension (trigger points) and spasm in the muscles that surround the thoracic spine. This can be achieved by prolonged poor posture and sitting, also by doing too much too quickly in the gym or repetitive strain from over lifting. Some people get pain by sleeping in a strange position.

    ·            Osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a condition that causes joints to become painful and stiff. Some people have swelling, tenderness of the joint. The spine is one of the most common areas to be affected by OA as its one of the predominant load bearing joints in the body. OA is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. OA tends to happen over time as we age.

    ·            Fracture. Most fractures/ compression fractures of the thoracic spine are due to trauma. But as said before due to the structure of the thoracic spine it is a very robust and stable structure as it acts as am attachment for the ribs which protect the heart and lungs. The most common cause of fracture is due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a health condition where the bones start to weaken over time. Its more common in women than men due to the menopause the function that hormones have in bone health. Osteoporosis in men is more due to underlying health conditions such as excess alcohol.


    How To Relieve Upper Back Pain

    Depending on the severity of your upper back pain, each relief method is different for each person. Having upper back pain can prevent you from doing regular daily activities. Below are some home remedies for upper back pain relief:


    One way to avoid and relieve upper back pain is by correcting your posture whilst sitting. By sitting up straight and maintaining good posture, this will help avoid putting pressure on your spine and upper back muscles and prevents the back muscles from tightening up and causing strain on them. If you struggle with the habit of slouching while sitting because of the way your desk is set up, or if your job involves sitting for long periods of time, you could ask your employer for a height-adjustable desk.


    Exercise and leading a health lifestyle are the most important ways of treating and making back pain better. If you are struggling to exercise due to your pain, you should see a health care professional who can advise on appropriate exercise.

    Back Supports

    Remaining conscious of your posture at all times, especially when sitting down can help relieve upper back pain. If you find that you are uncomfortable in your office chair, you can get a back support to rest your back on. This will prevent chances of straining your upper back muscles and will also prevent other body injuries, such as neck injuries.


    Sometimes It is better to rest the area where it hurts, to prevent the pain from getting worse.

    Ice and Heat Packs

    These help the blood circulation to the muscle tissues. These will help assist the healing process and may reduce pain and swelling.


    Medicines such as Anti-Inflammatory medication, help relieve the area of pain in your upper back. This will help reduce swelling and aching pains. You can also get over the counter muscle relaxants.


    Getting regular massages will help loosen your muscles and release tension, which will help prevent muscles tensing up.


    Stretching daily will help loosen the muscles and prevent the body’s muscles and bones straining.


    If you have continuous tension and pain in your back it is suggested to go to your G.P. Continuous untreated strain or injury in your upper back can get worse the longer you leave it. G.P.’s will be able to help you treat your pain properly, so you aren’t risking long-term effects to your back. Your G.P.’s can refer you to physiotherapy to get the best treatment for your upper back pain. They could also assess whether your upper back pain is severe enough to warrant further diagnostic intervention or Orthopaedic referral.

    How to Relieve Upper Back Pain using Physiotherapy?


    Physiotherapy can be used to determine upper back pain causes and treatment methods.

    Briganti Physiotherapy offers a range of treatments and modalities to manage, reduce and eliminate upper back pain. Briganti Physiotherapy uses a range of evidence based treatments and modalities to aid in your recovery. While we utilise manual therapy and injection therapy to help treat patients, the underpinning of our treatment is based on education and the use exercise and strengthening.

    Contact Briganti Physiotherapy by visiting their website to find out more about the types of treatment which may be offered to assist in the recovery of your upper back.

    How Beacon Law Can Help You?


    If you believe you developed upper back pain any type of accident or due to your employer’s negligence, you may be able to make a claim. Beacon Law provides an experienced team of solicitors and legal professionals. We provide a high level of service to all our clients and work to ensure you receive the highest level of accident work compensation for your injuries. Beacon Law is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Contact us today to find out if you have a claim. Use our contact form or call 0330 1332 857

    Make a Claim

    Contact us today to find out if you have a claim.

    Use our Contact Forms or Call 0330 1332 857

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