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 reasons for 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, muscle spasms, rib misalignments, sprains/strains, fractures, and even malignancies. In this article, we will discuss some of these causes and remedies and the 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 each other. The 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 a continuation of your brain. It houses the essential and critical bundle of nerve fibers 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 neck. Your back has many associated parts, including bones, joints, muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments. Your spine comprises 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 safeguard 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 the horse’s tail. Upper back pain occurs when the spinal nerves, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments, or joints of the spine or ribcage get impacted or subluxated. Subluxations are a minor misalignment of the spine or joint that causes pain or discomfort. We have discussed the causes and symptoms in the next section.
Symptoms & 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, a painful upper or mid-back 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 & 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 pain source. 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.” This study cites the prevalence of upper and mid back pain as high as 48%. The good doctors related that the upper back portion of the spine deserves more attention than it receives.
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 treatment. 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 muscle and ligament weakness are present. Muscular and ligamentous weakness leads 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 pain source. The researchers reported that upper back joints are problematic in 42% of the population.
Research-Based Clinical Chiropractic & 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) & 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) refer to pain in 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 causes pain to the upper back (shoulder blade area). Therefore, upper back pain is the most common complaint of a patient who suffers from a slipped disc. Hence, it would be best if you had your neck thoroughly evaluated by competent clinicians familiar with the spine. Most important is their level of understanding of 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 spine, the systemic functioning capability of 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 does not neglect 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 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.