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Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain, also known as thoracic back pain, is discomfort or pain in the area of the upper and middle part of the back. Unlike low back pain, upper back pain is less common, but it can still be caused by various factors. Here’s an overview of upper back pain:

Causes of Upper Back Pain:

  1. Muscle Strain: Overexertion or poor posture can strain the muscles in the upper back.

  2. Poor Posture: Maintaining an improper posture while sitting, standing, or working at a computer for extended periods can lead to upper back pain.

  3. Herniated Disc: Although less common than in the lower back, a herniated disc in the upper back can put pressure on nerves and cause pain.

  4. Osteoarthritis: Wear and tear on the spine’s joints can result in osteoarthritis, leading to upper back pain.

  5. Fractures: Fractured vertebrae due to accidents or injuries can cause upper back pain.

  6. Scoliosis: An abnormal curvature of the spine can affect the upper back’s alignment and cause pain.

  7. Nerve Irritation: Irritation of nerves in the upper back can lead to localized pain or radiating pain down the arms.

Symptoms of Upper Back Pain:

  • Dull, aching pain in the upper back.
  • Stiffness and reduced mobility.
  • Pain that may radiate around the chest area.
  • Difficulty with deep breathing, especially if the pain is near the ribcage.
  • Muscle spasms.

Treatment of Upper Back Pain:

Treatment for upper back pain depends on the underlying cause and its severity. Common approaches include:

  1. Pain Medications: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications may be recommended for pain relief.

  2. Physical Therapy: Physical therapists can provide exercises and stretches to improve upper back strength and flexibility.

  3. Heat or Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area can reduce pain and inflammation.

  4. Posture Correction: Improving posture through ergonomic adjustments or posture exercises can help alleviate upper back pain.

  5. Osteopathic Treatment: Osteopaths can use manual techniques, such as soft tissue manipulation and spinal adjustments, to relieve upper back pain and improve musculoskeletal function.

  6. Injections: In some cases, injections, including epidural injections, may be used for pain relief.

  7. Surgery: Surgery is rarely necessary for upper back pain and is typically reserved for severe cases or specific conditions.

If you experience persistent or severe upper back pain, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your needs. Additionally, maintaining good posture and practicing ergonomics during daily activities can help prevent upper back pain.

Scarborough in Toronto

Andrew Chan, R.H.N., DOMP, B.Sc., DO (Euro)

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