Upper back surgery made the news earlier this year when U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln underwent a procedure to remove part of a herniated disc which was pinching a nerve in her back. What is particularly interesting about this surgery, beside the fact it was on a sitting U.S. Senator, is how uncommon the need for upper back surgery actually is.
Surgery for back pain is only performed in about 5% of all cases. And only 1% of all disc herniations occur in the thoracic, or upper back, due to its stability. This is good news for those with upper back pain: odds are high upper back surgery won’t be in your future.
While upper back surgery is still rare, upper back pain itself is becoming more common. Accidents, sports injuries, and other trauma can cause muscle sprains and worse. But an increasingly common cause of upper back pain is related to postural and strength issues, particularly for those who spend much of the day working on computers.
There are a number of natural health avenues one may consider for when dealing with upper back pain issues, including:
Muscle Balance Therapy uses targeted exercise and stretching to strengthen deconditioned muscles and stretch overly tight ones to relieve muscle pain and pressure on the spine.
Massage Therapy by a trained massage therapist can provide relief from upper back and increase joint mobility.
Trigger Point Therapy is used to relieve myofascial pain from irritated muscles, particularly common in the broad upper back and shoulder muscles.
The Alexander Technique, taught in private or group sessions, provides instruction on how to change movement habits to remove muscle restrictions and create more ease of movement. The Alexander Technique is particularly helpful for postural issues such as forward head posture and hunched shoulders.
Remember, except in cases of severe trauma your upper back pain did not happen overnight. It can take time to overcome the underlying causes of pain. But actively working towards better health naturally is almost always a better approach than what should be your last resort: upper back surgery.