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How To Prevent Upper Back Pain

Preventing Pain And Injury

What Causes Upper Back Pain? How to Stop Pain? Back Pain Relief

Posture. Using correct posture and keeping your spine in alignment are the most important things you can do for your neck and back . The lower back bears most of your weight, so proper alignment of this section can prevent injury to your vertebrae, discs, and other portions of the spine. If you have back or neck pain, you may need to make adjustments to your daily standing, sitting, and sleeping habits and learn proper ways to lift and bend. Your workspace may need to be rearranged to keep your spine from slouching. Because extra pounds can make back pain worse, you should maintain a weight that is appropriate for your height and body frame.

Exercise. Regular exercise is important to prevent back pain and injury. A program of strengthening, stretching and aerobic exercises will improve your overall fitness level. Research has shown that people who are physically fit are more resistant to back injuries and pain, and recover quicker when they do have injuries, than those who are less physically fit .

Ways To Turn Good Posture Into Less Back Pain

Most of us get back pain at some point in our lives. It may be due to a sports-related injury, an accident, or a congenital condition such as scoliosis. But most of the time, upper or lower back pain develops during the course of day-to-day life. Repetitive activities at work or home, such as sitting at a computer or lifting and carrying, may produce tension and muscle tightness that result in a backache. One solution to preventing back pain is to improve posture.

In addition to improving your posture, general physical fitness and a healthy weight are important are important, too. But the surprisingly simple act of paying attention to improving your posture can go a long way.

Is It Possible To Prevent Upper Back Pain

It may not be possible to prevent all causes of upper back pain, but there are some easy steps you can take that may avoid some of the more common causes. These include:

  • Take regular breaks from sitting or lying down to stretch and move different muscle groups, so the muscles stay loose and strong.
  • Take a few minutes to stretch the muscles or warm up the body before any activities.
  • People who lift heavy objects should avoid twisting or lifting with their back.
  • Have regular massages to help work out the tension of the muscles.
  • Work with a physical therapist to strengthen weak muscles and keep pressure off the joints.
  • Avoid wearing heavy backpacks or purses.
  • Be conscious of posture at all times walk upright, sit correctly, and use back supports if necessary.

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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider If I Have Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain usually gets better on its own. Call your healthcare provider if:

  • Your upper back pain doesnt improve after a week.
  • You develop any tingling or numbness in your legs or buttocks.
  • You have severe pain or muscle spasms.
  • You develop new symptoms such as fever, weight loss or bowel or bladder problems.

These may be a sign of a more serious condition.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Upper back pain may not be as common as lower back pain, but it can still greatly affect your quality of life. While you cant always avoid upper back pain, there are ways to help prevent it. Make sure to stand up straight, get plenty of exercise and try to reduce your stress. If your pain doesnt improve, call your healthcare provider. They can help you figure out whats causing you pain and get you back on track.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2022.


Other Tips To Manage Back Pain When Sitting

Ways to Prevent Lower Back Pain or to Recover from it.
  • Multitasking exercise

    If youre stuck at your desk or some other sitting activity, try adding movement to it. You can squeeze your muscles , march in place, or ride an adapted desk bike. There are so many benefits since it can help with productivity, weight loss, and pain relief.

  • Pay attention to your posture everywhere

    Dont neglect your posture when you get in the car, plop onto the couch after work, or crawl into bed. Make sure you are still thinking about your posture to keep your back happy.

  • Be more active

    An active lifestyle is beneficial for postural balance and minimizing the inherent risks that come with sitting too much. Try to add more activity to your days when you dont have to sit.

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Take Breaks From Sitting

Getting up and moving during the workday can improve back health. Plus, it has the added bonus of creating a sense of well-being and increasing productivity. Try to take a 5-10 minute break from your sitting at your desk every hour. You can simply stand up, go for a small walk, or try a little stretching. Set an alarm if you need a reminder to get up and move periodically.

Muscle Deconditioning And Poor Posture

People can condition their muscles over time to be stronger or more enduring through exercises and weight training.

The reverse is also true. Humans may decondition their muscles over time by not using them correctly.

In some muscles, including back muscles, deconditioning is as easy as sitting at a desk with incorrect posture for too long. A person may do this while at work.

Slouching in a chair over a desk may cause a loss of strength in the muscles. Over time, the weakening of muscles may lead to pain in the area as they experience strains or irritation.

When a person slouches, pressure from gravity and the body itself pushes on the spine, neck, discs, and ligaments. Over time, this pressure can lead to pain and other complications.

It is possible to condition the muscles to be stronger and more durable in most cases. This process starts with correcting the posture while sitting, and taking regular breaks from the desk to move around and stretch.

Exercises may also improve strength in the back, and using a standing desk can help, too.

Conditioning the muscle requires patience, however, and anyone with chronic upper back pain from weak muscles might benefit from seeing a physical therapist to find an exercise routine for their specific needs.

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When Will The Pain Go Away

If youre experiencing mild discomfort or an acute injury, the duration of the pain will largely depend on the cause of the problem and the type of injury.

Generally, you may notice improvements within a few weeks or months as your muscles become stronger and your injury heals .

However, every person will have a different recovery process. In some cases, seeking the advice of a personal trainer who can provide a specific exercise regimen might be beneficial.

If youre experiencing severe neck or back pain, you should consult a healthcare professional and avoid starting any new activity.


Each person will have a unique recovery process. If you need a specific treatment plan or are experiencing severe pain, consult a physical therapist or another healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.

Could Upper Back Pain Mean Something More Serious

How To Prevent Lower Back Pain

There is always a chance that your upper back pain could be caused by a much bigger problem. Degenerative Disc Disease , a herniated disc, and osteoarthritis are possible underlying problems causing your upper back pain. Shapiro cautions that while pain should never be ignored, normal muscle soreness from exercising is nothing to be concerned about. He warns, however, that you should question intense pain that doesnt go away over time. If you notice symptoms like fever, chills, tingling in your chest or stomach along with your upper back pain you should see your doctor.

Sharp, shooting, radiating, severe, unexplained acute pain or chronic pain lasting more than a few days could be your body’s way of telling you that something more serious is going on, Shapiro says.

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Anatomy Of The Upper Back Muscles

The neck consists of seven cervical vertebrae, the building blocks of the spine. Each block is separated by a disc that sits in between and each vertebra has a facet joint on either side. The seventh cervical vertebra, referred to as C7, meets the first of 12 thoracic vertebrae T1 at the base of the neck, a point known as the cervicothoracic junction. This can be a common source of pain as the spinal curves transition from lordotic to kyphotic An increased kyphotic thoracic curve can result in you developing a prominent hunchback posture.

Each level of vertebra has a pair of nerve roots, one coming from each side of the spine. These nerve roots trail down to supply their corresponding portion on the arm. This is how referred pain can occur, if a nerve root is irritated or inflamed at the spine, symptoms can be felt in the corresponding region e.g. in the forearm or fingers. For instance, if you injure C7, you may feel pain in your index and middle fingers.

The shoulder blades, known as scapula, are responsible for the stability of the shoulder and forearm movement. They rotate, retract and protract and their movement patterning and stability can greatly affect your posture and arm function. If the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades arent functioning properly, you can end up with scapula winging where the shoulder blades stick out.

Tips To Prevent Upper Back Pain

People who have upper back pain due to medical conditions can usually find pain relief through exercise. Yoga and pilates often relieve the pain associated with osteoporosis and arthritis. Holding yoga poses helps to build muscle strength, which can relieve pain and help prevent muscle injuries. While yoga and pilates are safe for most people, you should not take up any exercise regime without consulting your physician first. Sapna pain clinic specialists may consult with you about possible back pain causes and assign a treatment.

There are several other things you can do to prevent upper back pain. Consider all of the following tips:

  • Practice good posture.
  • Deep tissue massage can also help. Ask your doctor or chiropractor for a referral.
  • Use a warm compress or heating pad on the painful parts of the upper back.

If you have upper back pain, dont suffer in silence. Seek medical advice for treatment. Be sure to sleep in a comfortable position. Implement a healthy diet and exercise regularly to stay within a healthy weight range.

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What Causes Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain before and after sleeping can be brought on by several factors, including poor posture, overuse injuries, excess sitting and hunching if you work in an office, sports injuries, and muscle strains. Other factors like being overweight, smoking, and even heavy backpacks and purses frequently create upper back pain problems. One often overlooked cause is sleeping position.

Bill Fish, certified sleep science specialist and co-owner of Tuck Sleep, points out, There is no question that your preferred sleeping position could result in some back pain. According to Fish, 41 percent of people sleep in the fetal position. Its also the most popular sleeping position and helps keep your spine aligned at night. With the proper mattress and pillow support for your neck, shoulders, and hips, sleeping on your back will also relieve any pressure on the spine.

If you are sleeping on your stomach and notice you are suffering some back pain, there probably is a reason, Fish says, It knocks your spine completely out of alignment. He points out that the upper back pain comes from your bodys weight pushing the core into the sleep surface and misaligning the spine.

Much like when recovering from back surgery, it is important to adjust your sleeping positions to minimize discomfort overnight for your upper back pain.

A simple change to help stop upper back pain before and after sleep includes standing often and moving periodically.

Lifestyle Changes To Reduce Upper Back Pain

5 Stretches To Prevent and Relieve Lower Back Pain in 10 Minutes

Some risk factors from daily routines are known to increase the risk for back pain. Making one or more of the following lifestyle changes could help reduce the risk of developing upper back pain:

  • Exercise and stay active. Going for regular walks or hikes, participating in noncontact sports, strength training, and stretching can all be beneficial for conditioning the upper back. Keeping the back strong and flexible helps maintain spinal function and reduces the risk for developing pain. If trying to transition from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one, start slowly and gradually build up endurance.
  • See Quitting Smoking: A Must for People with Back Pain Video

In addition, an overall healthy lifestyle of eating a well-balanced diet, getting the recommended amounts of sleep, and managing stress can help reduce the risk for developing back pain.

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Potential Side Effects Of Muscle Relaxants

Prescription muscle relaxants like carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprine are known for causing side effects like fatigue, nausea, and drowsiness. Additionally, some classes of muscle relaxants have a high potential for abuse. Muscle relaxants are not a long-term solution for back spasms and are typically only prescribed for a few weeks at a time.

Am I Likely To Get Back Pain

Several factors can increase your chances of having upper and middle back pain. Among them:

  • Age.Back pain starts for most people in their 30s or 40s, and itâs more common the older you get.
  • Being out of shape. The stronger the muscles in your back, shoulder, and abdomen, the lower your chance of injury.
  • Weight. If you carry extra pounds, you put more strain on your back.
  • Underlying conditions. Diseases such as arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
  • Smoking. Smokerâs cough can strain your back. And if you smoke, you may be slower to heal, which can make your back pain last longer.

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The Muscles Of The Upper Back And How They Work:

  • Trapezius a diamond shape muscle divided into three sections. They are not designed to be heavy lifters but are often used inappropriately when incorrect lifting technique is used

  • Rhomboids connect the shoulder blades to the spine

  • Erector spinae these long, superficial muscles run down the length of your spine like train tracks on either side of the vertebral column. The erector spinae are not designed for heavy lifting or stability and are intended to extend the spine only however they can go into spasm during episodes of back pain

  • Latissimus dorsi the large wing-shaped muscles of the back that are one of the prime movers in shoulder function. These are the muscles that you use in exercises like pull ups and lat pull downs

  • Rotator cuff this group of four muscles provide stability around the shoulder joint. The ligaments of the shoulders are quite weak and lax compared to other parts of the body. This means they rely on the muscle strength of the rotator cuff for stability

  • Deltoids the muscles that provide the cap on the top of the shoulder. They are important in lifting actions as they initiate the movement of the arm coming up

  • Pectorals these muscles sit across the front of the chest, however, have a large impact on the upper back. If the pecs are tight, they pull the shoulder joint forward resulting in hunched shoulders.

  • Serratus anterior wraps around the side of your rib cage on each side and acts to pull your shoulder blade forward

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S Toward Improving Your Posture

Middle & Upper Back Pain? Stop It FAST!

You can improve your posture and head off back pain by practicing some imagery and a few easy exercises.

  • Imagery. Think of a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor . Now imagine that a strong cord attached to the top of your head is pulling you upward, making you taller. Try to hold your pelvis level don’t allow the lower back to sway and resist the urge to stand on tiptoe. Instead, think of stretching your head toward the ceiling, increasing the space between your rib cage and pelvis. Picture yourself as a ballerina or ice skater rather than a soldier at attention.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five relax. Repeat three or four times.
  • Upper-body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Relax.

For more on healing an aching back, review Back Pain, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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Why Ibuprofen Can Help

Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter pain reliever that reduces both pain and inflammation. It is the active ingredient in Nurofen and can be helpful for relieving back pain.

Nurofen can be taken as oral tablets, which can help to relieve pain & inflammation for up to 8 hours.* If you prefer a topical treatment, you can also try Nurofen Duralast dermal patches these are placed on the skin to provide targeted relief from muscular pain and tenderness for up to 24 hours.^


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