Although upper back pain is not as prevalent of a condition as lower back pain
, it can still cause a great deal of discomfort for someone who is suffering from it. Fortunately, there is a great deal of information about upper back pain and its causes and treatments.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Most upper back pain is caused by one of two conditions:
1 - muscular irritation, also known as myofascial pain, and
2 - joint dysfunction.
How do we determine the source of your upper back pain?
In order to treat upper back pain, the cause must first be determined. Specialists are able to determine whether the cause is muscular or joint related by a series of tests that compare the ability of a problematic upper back with that of a normal individual. These tests include mobility as well as stability tests. Because the upper back is designed for stability and protection rather than movement, degradation within the joints can be discerned quite easily. If there is no degradation of the joints, then a specialist can be much more certain that the cause is muscular in nature and proceed from there.
Some of the characteristics of the upper back that a specialist will check for include the following:
1 - a slightly concave pattern in the upper 12 vertebrae of the thoracic spine
2 - stability within the thoracic cage, or the cage that provides connection to the rib cage and protects the heart and the lungs
3 - proper space in the joints that are between the bottom thoracic vertebra and the top lumber vertebra
CT scans and MRIs usually are not able to adequately diagnose problems that are in the upper back because of its lack of movement. This is essential to keep in mind if a CT scan or an MRI is performed with all results negative.
What conditions produce upper back pain?
Upper back pain can be caused by short term trauma or bad habits that occur over time. It can also occur in tandem with neck and shoulder pain.
A large percentage of people who experience upper back pain tend to work at computers for extended periods of time. The weird postures and intensity of the position of most people who are sitting at a computer desk can cause discomfort in the upper back because of the strain that is placed on the neck and the shoulders.
If upper back pain is caused because of myofascial dysfunction, it is because the shoulder girdle is experiencing some sort of irritation. This can be caused by overuse or underuse of these muscles - athletes who perform repetitive motions can fall victim to this kind of pain; however, people who do not exercise their shoulders at all can also fall victim to it as well. Because the muscles of the scapula are so large, the pain that occurs here can be quite difficult to work out.
There may also be certain trigger points that are causing upper back pain in some patients. Trigger points are usually a part of the skeletal muscle and require different sorts of treatments from other sorts of upper back pain.
If joint dysfunction is causing the upper back pain in a patient, it will usually be because of the ribs that connect in the vertebrae in the thoracic spine.
What are some of the available treatments for upper back pain?
Depending on the type of cause that is creating the upper back pain, the treatment may be stretching and strengthening exercises or resting the muscles of the back. It can be difficult to tell the treatment that will work until the cause of the upper back pain has been fully solidified in the patient.
For joint dysfunction as a cause of back pain, manual manipulation is usually the best treatment. An osteopathic physician would be the expert to attend in this situation. In situations of muscular discomfort and dysfunction, a physical therapist would be more appropriate. This is a professional that can lead a patient through certain motion exercises that will strengthen the areas of the back that are causing the discomfort because of lack of movement. This kind of therapy can also be used to work out areas that have been used too much.