There are many causes for pain in the upper back, some of which are from minor sources, and some of which can be quite serious. You may have simply strained your back, lifting incorrectly or even while just bending to pick something up. Your back is a complex set of nerves, spinal discs, spinal fluid, and musculature that can be displaced by something as simple as rolling over awkwardly in bed. Strain in your back is the result of minor tears in the muscle tissue, with a sprain being defined as ligament damage. Usually a minor condition that is easily remedied is back spasms. They are when the muscles jump, an unnatural contracting of the muscles in the upper back, which can cause mild pain, as well as discomfort and irritation. Knowing this is important in determining what causes pain in the upper back.
Another more serious causes of pain in the upper back includes ruptured or herniated discs. This can occur when the layers of cartilage lose their stretching ability and elasticity, and your discs wear against each other, causing either a hernia (where the disc bulges out from the spinal column) or a rupture (where discs are injured from pressure being placed directly on them from other discs). This potentially dangerous situation can cause great pain, as well as tingling down the arms and muscle weakness. Another cause for upper back pain is arthritis, which is inflammation of the joints. It can cause aches, swelling, joint stiffness and restriction of pain-free movement. One more cause could be osteoarthritis, which is when bones lose their density and they degenerate from lack of calcium and potassium. Your back may ache, and the pain may be accompanied by restrictions of neck movement due to pain.
What causes pain in the upper back may be more serious however. A visit to your doctor can help diagnose exactly what is wrong and how to fix it. Serious conditions such as herniated or ruptured discs, or a condition known as spinal stenosis (when aged bones lose their moisture and become constricted, pinching nerves in the spinal column and causing extreme pain), are conditions that will require immediate and comprehensive treatment by a physician. Diagnosis can be made by a medical doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor and may include self-help in the form of physical therapy and medication.
Often the diagnosis of pain in the upper back will start with an evaluation of the patient’s age, as many of these back problems are majorly age-specific. Osteoarthritis, for example, is generally found in patients over the age of 40, while mild strains and sprains might be felt at any age. Sometimes the condition may be severe enough to warrant surgery, although this should be a last-resort option and not offered right off the bat. Other remedies may include heating pads, ultrasound, stimulation of various sorts, traction and stretching and strengthening exercise. Physical therapy will depend on your age general physical health, what causes pain in the upper back, and your ability to withstand the rigors of stretching and strengthening.