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What To Do For Upper Back Pain

When To Call A Doctor

How to Get Rid of Upper Back Pain in 30 SECONDS

In most cases, back pain gets better with home treatment. So unless you have signs of a severe illness, injury, or heart attack, you can give your back pain some time to work itself out before you call your doctor.

911 or other emergency services immediately if:

  • Back pain occurs with chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include:
  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in your chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in your back, neck, jaw, upper belly, or one or both shoulders or arms. See a picture of areas where symptoms may be felt.
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.
  • A fast or uneven heartbeat.
  • A person has signs of damage to the spine after an injury . Signs may include:
  • Being unable to move part of the body.
  • Severe back or neck pain.
  • Weakness, tingling, or numbness in the arms, legs, chest, or belly.
    • You have a new loss of bowel or bladder control.
    • You have new numbness in your legs or numbness in your legs that is getting worse.
    • You have new weakness in your legs or weakness in your legs that is getting worse.
    • You have new or increased back pain with fever, painful urination, or other signs of a urinary tract infection.

    What Is Pain Between Shoulders Blades

    Upper back pain between the shoulder blades can be felt on one side or both sides of your body. It may be acute or chronic . You may experience the following symptoms:

    • A sharp, short burst of pain
    • Dully achy pain that lingers
    • A burning ache
    • Pain when you take a deep breathe
    • Pain thats local to the area between the shoulder blades, or pain that spreads to your arms or other areas of your back.

    Common Causes Of Chronic Back Pain

    Chronic back painis usually age-related, but can also result from a prior injury. The mostcommon causes include:

    In some cases, its difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.If your doctor has exhausted all diagnostic options, its time to seek asecond opinion from a back pain specialist, recommends Nava. Itsimportant not to make rushed decisions or undergo extensive medicalprocedures until the origin of the pain is found. Not only may they nothelp they could make the pain worse, warns Nava.

    If the source of the pain is not known or cant be treated, your bestoption may be to work with your doctor on reducing the flare-ups and makingthe pain manageable with nonsurgical treatments.

    Also Check: How To Relax Back Pain

    When Back Pain Requires Emergent Treatment

    In some people who have metastases to their spine, a condition called malignant spinal cord compression may develop. The symptoms include worsening back pain, weakness of the legs, and sometimes loss of urinary or bowel control. This is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is needed to prevent complications such as paralysis.

    Overview Of Upper Back Pain

    Upper Back Pain

    Upper back pain is classified as pain or discomfort in the area between your shoulder blades. This type of back pain can be mild or severe. It may be constant, or you may only notice it with activity.

    Although back pain is very common, upper back pain is less common than lower back pain. This is because the bones in your upper and middle back are attached to your ribcage and are not as mobile as those in your neck or lower back.

    Get to the bottom of your pain by coming to Dignity Health orthopedic services. Find a doctor or location that fits your needs.

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    Medication From The Store

    There are two kinds of over-the-counter pain relievers that frequently help with back pain: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen. Both have some side effects, and some people may not be able to take them. Talk to your doctor before taking pain relievers. And don’t expect medication alone to solve your pain problem. Studies show you’ll probably need more than one type of treatment.

    What Are Common Upper Back Pain Treatments

    The range of treatments for upper back pain and neck and mid-back pain, too suggest there is no best option. These are some examples of different approaches that may help you.

    In most cases, upper back pain is not a cause for worry however, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and inconvenient. Furthermore, if pain develops suddenly and is severesuch as from an injury and, certainly if pain and symptoms progressively worsen you should seek medical attention.

    Simple home remedies. In general, the following home treatments may help relieve upper back pain. Ignore the hype about special products marketed on TV or social media. Stick with what science says works, at least for most people with minor musculoskeletal strain:

    • Gentle stretches
    • Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen , naproxen , or acetaminophen
    • Ice to reduce pain and swelling
    • Heat to improve mobility and ease stiffness

    Posture exercises. If your posture is good, your spinal structures should be correctly aligned, which reduces back strain. Start with these strategies to improve the way you stand or sit.

    Injections. A trigger point injection is a direct shot of powerful pain medicine. It may solve your problem, or it may just buy you enough pain-free time to pursue other interventions to get your upper back pain in check.

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    How To Treat A Pulled Back Muscle In 8 Steps

    A pulled back muscle can begin as a sudden, sharp pain when lifting or bending. Or it may appear gradually, getting progressively worse over several days. This common injury ranges from a minor inconvenience to an intense source of pain. It can take several weeks, and in some cases a few months, to heal.1

    A pulled muscle is the common term for a strained muscle.2 A strain is a muscle or tendon injury that happens when the tissue stretches or tears. When a ligament stretches or tears, its called a sprain. Back pain, often due to a pulled muscle, is one of the most common issues health professionals treat.2 In most cases, you can manage and treat symptoms at home. But if the pain is unbearable or makes it difficult to move, see a doctor.

    Treatment For Mild To Moderate Pain

    How to Relieve Lower Back Pain IN SECONDS

    In most cases, people with mild to moderate upper and middle back pain can manage their symptoms with:

      • Over-the-counterpain medicines, such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , to reduce pain. But if these don’t get rid of your pain, you may need a prescription pain medicine that is stronger.
      • Over-the-counter muscle relaxants, such as methocarbamol . These can relax muscles and may reduce pain.
      • Heat or ice to reduce pain and stiffness.
      • Exercise to stretch and strengthen the muscles of your back, shoulders, and stomach.
      • Physiotherapy to help increase your flexibility, strength, and balance. Your physiotherapist may teach you an exercise program so you can do it at home.
      • Massage to help reduce muscle tension and pain for a short time and to improve blood flow.
      • Spinal manipulation to help relieve pain and improve function. It can range from massage and slow pressing to a quick thrust.
      • Acupuncture. It involves putting tiny needles into your skin at certain points on the body to promote healing and pain relief.
      • Capsaicin cream may help relieve pain.footnote 1 Capsaicin is a substance contained in cayenne peppers. Capsaicin cream is applied directly to the skin over the painful area. Do not apply topical products that contain capsaicin to areas of broken skin.

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    Adolescent Scoliosis And Pain

    Adolescents with scoliosis experience pain very differently from adults with the condition. The most common age of diagnosis is between 10 and 18 years of age. This age group experiences the most rapid phase of growth, known as puberty. During this stage, the body is constantly growing and changing.

    While the body is growing, the spine is experiencing an upward growth motion as the body is elongating. That upward growth is why adolescent scoliosis patients report very little, if any, pain.

    What Should I Do If I Am Experiencing Upper Abdominal Pain Or Discomfort

    If you regularly experience one or more of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer which are not normal for you, do not ignore them, contact your GP straight away or call NHS 111 to investigate.

    COVID-19 update: Although GP practices may be changing the way that they run appointments or interact with you, they are still available for you and it is vital that you still contact them if you have any of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Read more.

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    Treatments For Upper Back Pain

    To relieve upper back pain, your doctor will customize your treatment based on your symptoms, risk factors, and medical history.

    Your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:

    Physical therapy

    Physical therapy could include things like helping you improve your posture and the way you hold your body, stretching your muscles, examining your pain tolerance, aerobics, and strengthening your abdomen muscles. These interventions ultimately take strain off of your back muscles and improve pain levels.

    Mindfulness and meditation

    To manage the emotional side of relieving upper back pain, your doctor may refer you to a mindfulness or meditation specialist. This can help you manage frustration, stress, and depression as you continue down your road of healing.


    To relieve upper back pain, your doctor may evaluate your diet. Some foods are irritating to the body, especially foods containing high amounts of sugar or fat. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthy foods can help strengthen your back and reduce pain.


    Some injection-based procedures can help to relieve upper back pain. For instance, your doctor might recommend a nerve block or epidural steroid injection .


    Your doctor may prescribe medications like anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants to help relieve upper back pain. These medications are usually done for the short term or in conjunction with other treatment options.


    How Can You Get An Upper Back Pain Diagnosis

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    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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    Symptoms Of Upper Back Pain

    Symptoms can vary from person to person and depend on whats causing the pain. The pain can be mild or more severe. You might have sharp pain in one particular spot or a general achiness that comes and goes. Back pain that doesnt have a clear or known cause is called non-specific back pain.

    If your back pain is significantly affecting your daily activities or stopping you from getting a good nights sleep, see your physiotherapist or GP.

    Middle And Upper Back Pain

    • NSPC Team

    Pain in the lower back seems to grab all the headlines and with good reason, given that 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain at some time or another. But pain in the upper and middle back, known as the thoracic spine, can be just as debilitating as lower back pain.

    The vertebrae of the thoracic spine connect to the necks cervical vertebrae and to the lower backs lumbar vertebrae . Given its location in the middle of the back, the thoracic spine provides the body with core stability and protects the vital internal organs of the chest, including the heart and lungs.

    There are several reasons people may suffer from thoracic spinal pain. Muscle tension is among the most common causes and is often the result of poor posture. In older adults, arthritis in the thoracic facet joints can cause middle and upper back pain, as can compression fractures of the vertebrae due to osteoporosis. In younger patients, a spine segment or a rib can be out of place and cause pain. Other causes of middle and upper back pain include herniated or degenerated discs or problems with the joints that attach the ribs to the thoracic vertebra.

    How is middle and upper back pain treated?

    Facet joint injections, trigger point injections, epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency are minimally invasive procedures that can be performed in our offices in less than 15 minutes and often result in dramatic pain relief.

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    Don’t Rest An Achy Back

    Doctors used to prescribe bed rest for back pain. But now we know that lying still is one of the worst things you can do. It can make back pain worse and lead to other complications. Don’t rest for more than a day or two. It’s important to get up and slowly start moving again. Exercise has been found to be one of the most effective ways to relieve back pain quickly. Try swimming, walking, or yoga.

    What Information Should I Share With My Doctor

    How to relieve upper back pain with exercises
    • What symptoms you have, including the part of your body that are affected.
    • How severe the pain is, and whether you have upper back pain at night only.
    • If your symptoms get worse while lying down, is it right away or only after lying down for a long time or after sleeping.
    • Does anything make the pain go away, such as changing position while lying down, propping up your back with pillows, etc.

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    Can I Prevent Neck And Back Pain

    The following may help to prevent back and neck pain:

    • Practice correct lifting techniques. Don’t lift heavy items. When you do lift something, bend your legs, keep your back straight, and then slowly lift your body and the object.
    • Wear a seat belt in motor vehicles in case of a collision.
    • Use telephones, computers, and other equipment correctly.
    • Maintain correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping.
    • Exercise regularly. Learn back-strengthening exercises to keep your back and belly muscles strong. Warm up with stretching exercises before doing exercises.
    • Do exercises that improve your balance.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Stay at a healthy weight.
    • Reduce emotional stress that may cause muscle tension.
    • Get enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet.

    It Could Also Be Stress

    Along with sub-par posture, strain in the muscles around the neck and shoulders or between the shoulder blades can be multi-factorial, says Kaliq Chang, MD, an interventional pain management specialist at the Atlantic Spine Center in West Orange, New Jersey. Most notably: stress, strenuous exercise, and sleeping with your neck in a weird position.

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    Prevention Of Upper Back Pain

    The following tips may help to prevent you from developing upper back pain.

    • Lift objects safely and correctly by bending at your knees and not from the waist.
    • Make sure your back is properly supported when sitting.
    • If you wake up with back pain, a more supportive mattress that adjusts to your back and supports its various curves and hollows may help.
    • Take regular breaks from sitting for long periods of time and from doing repetitive tasks.
    • Practise good posture see our section on causes of back pain.
    • Exercise regularly see our FAQ on some specific exercises for upper back strength.
    • Learn and practise good technique for any sports youre doing.
    • Stop doing any activity that you know is causing your back pain.
    • Stop smoking it can speed up the degeneration of the discs between your vertebrae that act as shock absorbers.
    • If you are overweight, losing weight may help to reduce the risk of back pain.

    Upper Back Pain Symptoms

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    Upper back pain symptoms can differ from person to person. For some, the pain might be mild and go away within a couple days, but for others the pain can worsen and interfere with daily tasks. Upper back pain symptoms and treatment plans can vary greatly depending on the problems underlying cause.

    Also Check: How To Make Your Lower Back Pain Go Away

    Symptoms That May Suggest Lung Cancer

    The symptoms of back pain related to lung cancer are diverse and overlap significantly with back pain caused by other conditions. If it involves the spine, it can mimic many of the symptoms of an upper back injury.

    Lung cancer related back pain may be generalized like a muscle ache or sharp like a pinched nerve. People with adrenal gland involvement may sometimes complain of “kidney pain” on one side of their back, or describe a feeling like they’ve just been “kidney punched.”

    That said, back pain related to lung cancer may have certain telltale signs. Red flags that back pain may be due to lung cancer include:

    • Back pain that is present at rest
    • Back pain that is worst at night
    • Back pain that occurs without any activity
    • Back pain that worsens the longer you lie in bed
    • Back pain that gets worse when you take a deep breath
    • Back pain that doesn’t respond to physical therapy or other medical interventions

    Moreover, back pain accompanied by other telltale signs such as a persistent cough, shortness of breath, unintentional weight loss, chronic fatigue, or the coughing up of blood may further support the likelihood of lung cancer.

    It’s important to note, however, that the “typical” symptoms of lung cancer are less likely to be present with lung adenocarcinoma, and currently the most common symptoms are fatigue and shortness of breath with exercise .


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