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What Causes Upper Left Back Pain

What Causes Upper Back Pain

Pain In Upper Left Back Treatment – Video 2 of 4

Upper back pain is usually caused by soft tissue injuries, such as sprains or strains, or muscle tension caused by poor posture or looking downward for long periods.

Poor posture and text neck can combine to wreck your upper back. Common behaviors and activities that can cause upper back pain include:

  • Poor posture

Dont let that long list of potential, serious conditions alarm you too much. In younger patients and when I say young, I mean people up to their mid-60s its most commonly a strain, Dr. Knight says.

Stretches For Shoulder Blade Pain

Here are some tips, stretches, and exercises you can perform in order to help shoulder blade pain.

Improve your work station: Ensure feet are flat on the ground and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, back is straight, arms are bent at the elbow at 90 degrees, monitor is at eye level, and your mouse is close to your keyboard.

Correct your posture: Ear, shoulder, and hip joint should be aligned when sitting with good posture. Shoulders should not be slouched and your head should not be tilted.

Massage the area: Lay your shoulder on the massage ball and roll on it with the weight of your body.

Stretch the shoulders: Intertwine your fingers together, lean back, and hunch your upper body as far back as possible, push your hands as far away from you as possible, while looking down. In this position, you can move around to feel other areas of the upper back become stretched.

Stretch the thoracic spine: Have a foam roller underneath your shoulders and lay on it. Keep your ribs downward, but dont arch your back too much. Keep your hands behind your head in order to support it. Roll gently on the roller.

Do a chest stretch: Stand in the middle of a doorway with each hand forward flat on the side of the door frame. Gently lean into the door frame and feel your chest opening up.

After completing any type of exercise, apply heat packs to the area to further relax the muscle.

When Back Pain Is A Symptom Of Lung Cancer

Research suggests that the time between the onset of symptoms and a diagnosis of lung cancer is around 12 months. This is often because a person does not recognize the symptoms, or because they hope that they’ll go away. Back pain is one such symptom.

It is not uncommon for people to have back pain with lung cancer, or even to have back pain as their first symptom. In fact, there are certain defining symptoms that point to cancer as the cause of back pain.

Chief among them are the location and types of pain, which may be quite different from your typical, chronic backache. All told, around 25% of people with lung cancer will report back pain as a symptom at some point in their disease.

This article looks at how back pain is linked to lung cancer, and how this pain differs from other kinds of back pain. It also explains why early treatment for back pain is so important.

Verywell / Hugo Lin

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Treatment For Upper Left Back Pain

Maintaining a healthy weight, along with a habit of cardio and strength workouts will help to prevent upper left back pain in the first place. Practicing good posture can also decrease the likelihood of this type of aggravating pain.

When upper left back pain persists, however, it may be time to consider a number of different treatment approaches.

5 Types of Treatment for Pain in the Upper Back on the Left Side:

Organs On The Left Side Of The Abdomen

upper left back pain causes heart attack

On the left side of your abdomen you can find some of the most important internal organs in your body:

Left lung The lower part of your left lung is located behind your heart and both of your lungs play a vital function in the respiratory system.

Spleen, pancreas, and part of the liver Although your liver is located under the right rib cage, part of it is located on the left side just under your heart. Below your heart under the left part of your rib cage are your liver, spleen, and pancreas. These organs, along with your liver, are an important part of your digestive system and help to break down food to extract nutrients and filter out waste products.

Left kidney Your left kidney is located towards your back and, just like the liver, helps to filter blood and keep you healthy.

Part of the stomach, intestines, and colon Part of your stomach, intestines, and colon are also located on the left side of your abdomen. The last part of your colon is located in the lower left side of the abdomen. If you have any digestive problems, the digestive-related pain might be felt on the left side.

Womens reproductive system Women also have part of their reproductive system on the left side of their body: part of the womb, left fallopian tube and the left ovary.

Organs on the Left Side of the Abdomen

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Throbbing Pain Under The Left Shoulder Blade

This is most likely a manifestation of left-sided protrusion of the intervertebral disk of the cervical or sternal spine. In addition, the herniation of intervertebral discs manifests itself as a pulsating pain under the left shoulder blade, it is accompanied by headache, unstable arterial pressure, dizziness, paresthesia of the left hand. It can also hurt the left shoulder, the entire left half of the back to the waist. Protrusions are detected by MRI, radiography. Pulsation below the scapula may be a symptom of incipient aortic dissection. Aortic aneurysm is a life-threatening condition, its rupture requires almost instant medical care, which is not always possible, therefore any reflected, throbbing back pain in the area of the shoulder blades should be a reason for a comprehensive examination and neutralization of the underlying cause of the symptom.

Rib Cage Nerve Damage

Intercostal neuralgia is a condition that describes pain in the ribs caused by damage to the rib cage nerves. This can be the result of an injury, inflammation, injury to chest muscles, or shingles.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology & Translational Neuroscience, nerve damage of the ribs can result in middle back pain that wraps around to the front of the chest. Depending on the location of the damaged nerves, you may also experience shoulder pain, chest pain, and pain in the upper thigh.7

The symptoms of nerve damage that affects the thoracic spine and ribs include:

  • Sharp shooting pains in the left rib cage or right rib cage
  • Burning pains that cause a lot of discomfort
  • Muscle spasms in your back, shoulder, or arm
  • Tenderness when touching your rib cage
  • Loss of sensation in your middle back or chest wall

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Causes Of Upper Back Pain When Breathing

Experiencing pain in your upper back while you breathe can cause confusion and frustration. Work with your doctor to identify the possible cause of your discomfort, which could be one of the following:


In most cases, upper back pain is caused by problems affecting the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons connected to the spine. Injuries like a sprain, strain, or muscle tension may cause pain and other symptoms in your upper and back.

Pulmonary embolism

This condition is caused by a blood clot that travels from one part of your body to another. Its especially common from the leg to your lung. The blood clot can block an artery and cause a sudden sharp pain in the upper back when you breathe.


Since pneumonia causes shortness of breath, struggling to breathe properly may cause upper back pain.

Lung cancer

When you have lung cancer, the tumor may apply pressure on the pleura, which protects your lungs from friction with the ribs. This constant irritation causes pain that you may feel in the upper back.

Spine problems

Some spine problems show symptoms of back pain when breathing. They include:

Serious Causes Of Referred Back Pain

Pain In Upper Left Back Treatment – Video 3 of 4

Back pain is back pain, right? Not so fast. Sometimes pain in your back can come from an entirely different region of your body, and the cause could be serious.

Referred pain is when you feel pain in one part of your body caused by disease or an injury in another. It often occurs in problems with chest and belly organs. For example, an infection in your kidneys may cause pain in your back or sides.

Read on to learn about four causes of referred back pain that can signal you have a serious health problem.

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Is Pain In The Upper Left Abdomen Serious

Pain can vary in severity depending on the cause.

  • Moderately serious: Ongoing left-sided pain that does not clear up quickly with rest, or that has symptoms that continue to get worse is considered moderately serious.
  • Serious: Left-sided pain accompanied by shortness of breath, pain in the jaw or arm, lightheadedness, or fainting is considered serious.

Musculoskeletal Causes Of Upper Left Back Pain

Conditions affecting the muscles and joints are often the causes of upper left back pain.

  • Poor posture, body movements or improper ways of twisting and lifting can cause upper left back pain.
  • Pulls and strains of the upper left back muscles from lifting heavy weights, awkward movements, overuse and overstretching.
  • Disorders of the spine, including intervertebral disc protrusion, damage to the disc, compression of nerves can also cause pain in the left upper back.
  • Fibromyalgia, myofascial pain and other muscle pain related conditions causing pain of different muscle groups in the neck, left shoulder and upper left back region.
  • Conditions affecting the ribs, disorders of the joints, like osteoarthritis, sometimes rheumatoid arthritis affecting the shoulder joint, vertebrae and other associated joints in the area of upper left back.

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Muscle Strain Or Tension

Neck pain on the left or right side is often caused by muscle tension or muscle strain.While a muscle strain happens when a tendon or muscle is stretched too much. Muscle tension happens when a muscle is unable to release completely after contraction.Here are the causes of muscle strain or tension in the neck.

  • Sleeping in a bad position
  • Hunching over for long hours
  • Talking over the phone while holding it in between shoulder and ear
  • Putting too much pressure on muscles while exercising
  • Injury
  • Pain or stiffness in the neck
  • Inflammation in neck or shoulder
  • Numbness in the arms

Medical Conditions That Cause Back Pain

Upper Left Back Pain Causes and Treatment

Conditions that can cause back pain include:

  • a slipped disc this can cause back pain and numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body
  • sciatica this can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet
  • ankylosing spondylitis this causes pain and stiffness that’s usually worse in the morning and improves with movement
  • spondylolisthesis this can cause lower back pain and stiffness, as well as numbness and a tingling sensation

These conditions are treated differently to non-specific back pain.

Very rarely, back pain can be a sign of a serious problem such as:

  • a broken bone in the spine
  • an infection
  • cauda equina syndrome
  • some types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma

If you see a GP with back pain, they’ll look for signs of these.

Page last reviewed: 14 January 2020 Next review due: 14 January 2023

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You Were In A Car Accident

If youre able to walk away from a rear end crash and feel OK, you may decide not to get checked out by a doctor. However, whiplasha violent backward-and-forward jerk of the headcan create tears and inflammation of the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back, explains Dr. Chang. See your doctor if you suspect whiplash, especially if you have other symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and pain in your neck.

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Range Of Available Unique Physical Therapy Treatments At Nydnrehab

Research at NYDNRehab

Repetitive Strain Injury Of The Hamstring

Pain In Upper Left Back Treatment – Video 4 of 4

Repetitive strain injury of the upper leg is caused by consistent repetitive use.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: upper leg numbness, thigh weakness, hamstring pain from overuse

Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the hamstring: hamstring pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the hamstring: upper leg injury, severe upper leg pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

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How Do Doctors Diagnose The Cause Of Upper Back Pain

To diagnose the cause of your upper , your doctor will ask you several questions about your pain including:

  • When did your upper back pain start?

  • Can you describe your pain? Is it sharp, dull, achy or burning?

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain ever, how would you rate your pain?

  • Is your upper back pain on the left side, right side, or both sides?

  • Is your upper back pain constant or does it come and go?

  • What, if anything, makes your upper back pain better or worse?

  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms, such as weakness or ?

  • Does your upper back pain wake you at night or limit your activities during the day?

  • Have you ever injured your back?

  • What do you do for work?

  • Do you exercise?

Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, feeling your back for areas of tenderness or abnormalities. You may need to move your arms, reach in different directions, bend and change positions. Your doctor will want to know if movement affects your pain or if limits your movements. Your doctor may also test your muscle strength and reflexes.

In some cases, testing may be necessary including:

  • Blood tests to check your blood cell counts and electrolytes

  • Bone scans if osteoporosis or a bone tumor is a possibility

  • Imaging exams, including X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs

  • Nerve studies to evaluate how well your nerves and muscles are working

Epat / Shockwave Therapy

EPAT Therapy is a non-invasive method for increasing the speed of healing and injury-related downtime.

EPAT Treatment is a painless, regenerative therapy that helps promote faster healing by delivering impulse pressure waves deep within damaged soft tissue. It works by stimulating blood flow to irritated tendons and ligaments and lessens inflammation for improved healing.

This form of treatment is non-surgical so there is no anesthesia necessary, no scarring, and no risk of infection.

In some cases, athletes or workers can actually undergo treatment sessions while still maintaining high levels of athletic activity or continuing to work.

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Neck Pain Treatment In Nyc

If you are suffering from chronic neck pain or headaches, you need to see a neck pain specialist who can get to the source of your pain and resolve it for good. Treatment may include chiropractic care, physical therapy, therapeutic massage, posture retraining and other treatments aimed at relaxing tense muscles and realigning your posture. Contact NYDNRehab today, and get rid of neck pain so you can get on with pain-free living.


Krøll, L.S. et al. Level of physical activity, well-being, stress and self-rated health in persons with migraine and co-existing tension-type headache and neck pain. J Headache Pain 18, 46 .

Kunst, P., & 3, S. . Self-reported causes of back pain adults U.S. 2017. Retrieved July 21, 2020, from

How Can You Get An Upper Back Pain Diagnosis

3 Ways Upper Back Pain Is Different

When you go to a doctor for your upper or mid back pain, youll start with a conversation. Expect the doctor to ask you about any events that may be directly responsible: A fall, a car accident, or any changes or increases to your fitness routine.

You might be asked to rank your pain on a scale of 0-10. You should also be prepared to talk about how your pain does, or does not, interfere with the activities of your daily life. Can you cook dinner, get dressed, take a shower?

Then comes the physical exam: the poking and prodding part of your visit. The doctor wants to see how your upper back pain affects your movement. Expect to sit, stand, reach, and bend in the exam room. After that, youre likely to get an X ray.

If symptoms persist or you have red flags such as a progressive weakness or bowel or bladder control problems, you may get more advanced testing, Dr. Knight says. He explains that MRI would be the likely choice.

Heres a look at several types of advanced testing for upper back pain.

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