Upper Back Pain
Although lower back pain is the most well-known kind of back pain, neck and upper back pain are fast becoming all too common. There are many causes or reason the upper back pain. The most common causes include shoulder problems, lower neck issues, spinal disc herniation (slipped disc), arthritis, osteoporosis, spondylosis, degenerations or spinal joints, degenerative disc disease, muscles spasms, rib misalignments, sprains/strains, fractures, and even malignancies. In this article, we will discuss some of these causes as well as remedies and best corrective treatment options. However, before we delve into these topics, let’s start by giving you some background information.
The Function of the Thoracic Spine
The upper back or the thoracic spine is the longest spine segment. The thoracic spine emerges from the base of the neck and continues down to your abdomen. It is also, the most complex spinal structure. The upper back or thoracic spine connects the cervical or neck above and the lower back or the lumbar spine below.
The thoracic spine has 12 spinal bones or vertebrae, stacked on of each other. These segments are termed as T1 (first thoracic) to T12 (the twelfth or last thoracic segment). Thoracic spine provides the critical support and protection of your internal organs (heart, lungs, and liver). It also provides much-needed support for the neck (cervical spine). While the cervical (neck) and low back (lumbar and lumbosacral) spines are for mobility, the thoracic spine (upper and mid back) is for stability and protection. The two most essential roles it plays is listed below for your review:
- Protects the internal organs by anchoring the ribcage: Your ribcage is supported and pinned to the thoracic spine. Your ribcage provides bony protection to life-sustaining organs (lungs, heart, and liver).
- Protects your spinal cord: The spinal cord is continuation your brain.. It houses the essential and critical bundle of nerve fibres controlling all bodily functions. The spinal cord runs within the bony canal, formed by each stacking vertebrae (spinal bone).
About your back
Upper back pain can result from soft tissues, bones, and joints of the upper back, shoulders or the neck. Your back has many associated parts, including bones, joints, muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments. Your spine comprises of 24 separate bones (vertebrae) that stack over each other. The last two segments of your spine combine to form the tailbone. These are the sacrum and coccyx. Between the vertebrae are flexible but sturdy pads that go about safeguarding the stability, strength, and mobility of the spine. These pads are called spinal discs or vertebral discs. Your spinal discs are firmly attached to each vertebra through a structure called the vertebral end-plate. The spinal disc is an avascular structure in the human body.
The opening formed in the middle of each vertebra forms the spinal canal. The spinal cord is a rope-like structure that emerges from the brain and passes through the spinal canal. Your spinal cord conveys nerve motions between your brain and your organs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, spinal discs, arteries, and veins. The spinal cord ends in the upper portions of the low back, but it continues downward from that point onwards as the Cauda Equina, a Latin word for horse’s tail. Upper back pain occurs when the spinal nerves, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments or joints of the spine or ribcage are impacted. We have discussed the causes and symptoms in the coming section.
Symptoms and Causes of Upper Back Pain
Upper back pain refers to the presence of pain in the thoracic spine. Pain in the upper back can result from disorders of the shoulder blades or neck issues. Nowadays, upper back pain is rapidly becoming common, and no one is immune. In young children and working adults, pain is mainly due to carrying heavy bags. Poor posture while working at the desk and handheld electronics are common causes of upper back pain in kids. However, among athletes and laborers, upper back pain presents itself with overuse. Also, not giving muscles enough time to rest during workouts is a leading factor in getting upper back pain. Degeneration is the cause when it comes to the elderly. In other words, nobody is immune to this problem!
Injury to the upper back is common because of the intricacy of anatomical structures in the associated spinal segments. In short, the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments and spinal discs) are easily susceptible to injury. Several factors attributed to the development of upper back pain. Muscle tears, damaged ligaments, nerve impingement, facet joint arthrosis (arthritis), vertebral fractures, arthritis and a slipped disc (protruded, herniated or prolapsed spinal disc) include some of the factors.
Spinal Joint and Back Pain
Facet joints (better known as “spinal joints” or “zygapophyseal”) are a common cause of the pain felt. Published research in the Pain Physician cited facet joint (spinal joints) of the upper back (thoracic spine) as a common source of pain. Dr. Manchikanti, Dr. Singh, Dr. Pampati, Dr. Beyer, and Dr. Damron published an article titled “Evaluation of the prevalence of facet joint pain in chronic thoracic pain.” The good doctor related that little attention is paid to the upper back joints of the spine. They also reported that the prevalence of pain due to a malfunction in the joints of the upper back at 48%.
A facet joint pain is often the result of facet hypertrophy or facet arthritis (bone spurs) and hypertrophy of ligamentum flavum. Although spine surgeons recommend surgery, conservative treatments are still the best means of treatments. Spine surgery has a high failure rate. Researchers recommend exhausting your conservative treatment before you opt for spine surgery.
Facet joint cause of an upper back will cause pain when to muscle and ligament weakness are present. Muscular and ligamentous weakness lead to malpositioning of a spinal joint. Chiropractors call this posting a subluxation. Click on the highlighted blue text to understand the ill effects of spinal malpositioning known as subluxation. A separate study published in the “BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders” reported joints of the upper back as a primary source of pain. The researchers reported that upper back joints are problematic in 42% of the population.
Research-Based Clinical Chiropractic and Physiotherapy Treatment in Malaysia
We have provided a link to the abstract of the later research for your review here. These eye-opening published articles are the tipping point and of course the reasons why our clinical teams pay particular attention to them, hence our unyielding attention to your upper back as well as to your neck. In our centers, the care you get is through the best and most efficient research-based methods.
Slipped Disc (Slip-Disc) and Pain in the Upper Back
The joints of your upper back are not the only source of pain. Neck pain and neck issues such as a slipped disc at C5-C6 (C5-C6 slip-disc) do refer pain to the upper back. Slipped disc (slip-disc) is rare in the upper back, but a slipped disc in the neck is a common source of upper back pain! A slipped disc in the neck almost always refers pain to the upper back (shoulder blade area). Therefore, upper back pain and is the most common complaint of a patient who suffers from a slipped disc. Hence, it is imperative that you have your neck thoroughly evaluated by competent clinicians familiar with the spine. But, most important is their level of understanding what to do if you have a slipped disc.
Another important thing that you need to keep in mind is the rib cage. Malpositioning of rib and spine joints or rib and sternum can also cause pain. But more important is the fact that your rib cage protects and houses vital organs. Your heart, lungs, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and spleen are all in your ribcage. With so much mechanical loading placed upon the structure, it goes without saying that the systemic functioning capability of these organs will also be affected.
Best Non-Surgical Treatments for Back Pain
It is all too common to hear people complaining of pain, stiffness or muscle tightness in their upper back. However, as familiar as these symptoms may be, never take them lightly. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is not right. In other words, your body is telling you that it needs urgent attention. Heed the warning and do not neglect an upper back pain. Visit one of our centers today for expert non-surgical treatment that works. Unlike others, we treat the spine through advanced technology.
Neglect or disregard of minor conditions often the reason why so many developed chronic and agonizing conditions. At Chiropractic Specialty Center®, our clinical teams help you feel better so that you can live a healthy, active life. Upper back pain or discomfort can affect a person’s posture, mental health and physical well-being in the long run. If you or a loved one is suffering from upper back pain, please ensure to get their back checked.