The upper back is much more stable than the neck and low back; it doesn’t move as much as the neck does, and doesn’t have to support the loads or stresses that the lower (lumbar) spine does. Its main job, along with the ribs, is to protect the internal organs in the chest. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems originating from high back pain causes.
ots of adults suffer from upper back pain, ranging from mid-back to up between the shoulder blades. It can be sharp and acute; imagine having a red-hot coat hanger stuck under your shirt and jammed up against your skin. And it can come from many different sources:
• Poor posture – it’s amazing how many upper back pain causes can result from something no more complex than poor posture. Sitting posture is especially important to this equation. Sitting with your back rounded, shoulders hunched forward, is one of the most common causes, especially for people who spend much of their workday in front of a computer. Some offices are encouraging people in cubicles to sit on a balance ball or exercise ball rather than an office chair, just to force them into better posture (and keeping their lower back and abdominal muscles engaged). When standing, think of a military posture; stomach in, back straight, chest out and chin up.
• Stress – more often than not, upper back pain results from strained muscles or muscles that are in spasm. Stress can cause you to unconsciously clench entire muscle groups, resulting in spasm. Figure out some stress-alleviating measures, whether that’s time at the gym, yoga, breathing exercises or whatever works for you.
• Improper lifting habits – if you have to lift something heavy, remember to bend your knees and put your load as close to the body as possible. Lift with your legs, with your back straight and head forward.
• Heavy backpack – this is something where kids or college students are obviously going to be at greater risk. Any overly-loaded backpack is going to be problematic for the spine, but using the backpack with only one strap is much worse. If you have to use a backpack and carry heavy loads for any distance, consider one with a lower belt that will transfer some of the load to your midsection.
• Trauma – something like a rear-end car accident or a blow to the head can overextend or compress the spine, causing a pinch or pressure on a spinal nerve, causing upper back pain.
• Scoliosis – the medical term for curvature of the spine. If the spine is bent in a U or S shape (along either axis), upper back pain can develop along with other medical problems.
Other medical conditions that can contribute to upper back pain causes include:
• Acid reflux or GERD
• Cardiac conditions such as angina
If you’ve been plagued with upper back pain, there are exercises and stretches that can help. Do some research and try them out; if you don’t get any relief, consider seeing a physician or chiropractor.