Upper back pain is less common mainly because your thoracic spine is much more stable than other areas of your back and neck.
Your thoracic spine consists of the 12 vertebrae in your upper back that your ribs connect to – a pair to each vertebra. Since the top nine pairs of ribs curve around to join in the front at your breastbone, mobility is greatly limited while this part of your spine is better protected against injury and degeneration.
Thanks to this extra support herniated discs causing upper back pain are uncommon – only 1% of all herniated discs occur in the thoracic spine. And upper back surgery is relatively rare.
Outside of an accident or other form of trauma, most upper back pain is some form of myofascial pain. Thankfully, upper back pain relief is within reach for almost anyone once you address the two primary sources of upper back myofascial pain.
Upper Back Pain: Muscle Imbalances
Everyone has muscle imbalances. They’re a result of repetitive actions we do and unbalanced postures we assume day after day.
As you continue to use one or more sets of muscles, they grow stronger and tighter. When opposing muscles are underused, they are pulled out of shape by the overused muscles and progressively weaken over time. This leads to unnatural postures, or postural dysfunctions, as the tighter muscles continually pull your body in one direction and the weakened stretched out muscles fail to maintain their position.
Out of the four primary postural dysfunctions, a forward head posture is the one most commonly associated with upper back pain.
Think of how you spend much of your day. In fact, observe how you’re sitting right now as you read this article.
Is your head and neck leaning forward towards the computer screen (or paper if you printed this article)? If so, chances are high that you have already developed significant muscle imbalances between your chest and upper back, front and rear shoulders, and front and rear of your neck.
Now for the good news. Once your muscle imbalances are corrected, posture dysfunctions resolve themselves and the pain caused by these muscle stressors goes away.
You can correct muscle imbalances in three simple steps:
Identify the specific muscle imbalances (which muscles are tight? which are weak?)
Strengthen the stretched out, weaker muscles through targeted exercises
Stretch out the overly tight muscles through targeted stretches
Our flagship Lose the Back Pain System takes you step-by-step through the process of identifying the exact muscle imbalances you have and gives you the targeted stretches and exercises you need to get fast upper back pain relief.
Upper Back Pain: Trigger Points
Trigger points are tiny contraction knots in your muscle fiber. Trigger points are so common they’re considered the primary cause of pain 75% of the time and a factor in almost every painful condition including upper back pain.
Trigger points in the upper back can occur from muscle trauma (car accidents, sports injury, falls), postural strains (sitting improperly at your desk all day), or repetitive movements at work or play (playing tennis, scanning items at a cash register).
Unless you’re familiar with them, trigger points may be easily overlooked as a source of pain. While many physical and massage therapists are now being taught about trigger points, most medical doctors aren’t familiar with them, so you may not have been told about these before.
And since one of the hallmarks of trigger points is referred pain, where the pain is felt distant from the actual source of pain, it can be maddening finding them until you know where to look. For example, a trigger point in your shoulder might be responsible for your upper back pain.
Relief from trigger point pain, just like muscle imbalances, starts with identifying the source of the problem. You can visit a knowledgeable massage therapist who can find and work out your trigger points with deep tissue massage, or you can work them out yourself with a trigger point self-treatment system.
Since we’re likely to get new trigger points on a regular basis, it’s best (and much less expensive) to learn how to treat them yourself rather than relying on a massage therapist. Plus, you don’t have to wait for an appointment when you’re in pain! That’s why we now recommend using a trigger point self-treatment system for upper back pain relief.
Upper Back Pain: Other Causes
Not every case of upper back pain is caused by muscle imbalances or trigger points, though they’re usually a factor. Emotional stress, dietary deficiencies and environmental toxins often contribute to back pain too.
For a comprehensive treatment of all forms of back pain, including how to get fast upper back pain relief, be sure to get the newly expanded and updated 2nd edition of my book, The 7-Day Back Pain Cure. It’s free for the asking using this link:
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