What To Do About Neck And Upper Back Pain

There is a good reason we use the phrase “pain in the neck” to describe difficult or uncomfortable situations. If you have ever experienced pain in the neck or upper back or you know someone who has, you no doubt understand how agonizing it can be. Furthermore you know just how this pain can inhibit everyday movements. Whether you enjoy lifting weights or less strenuous hobbies such as gardening, reading or knitting, it can all be made more difficult when you suffer from neck and upper back pain.

What Causes Neck & Upper Back Pain

With millions of adolescents and adults being diagnosed with back pain each year, we are learning more about what causes this type of pain. A variety of factors cause or contribute to this pain, including improper posture. Whether you sit at a desk all day, stand behind a cash register or sit behind the wheel of a car, the way in which you hold your spine can cause pain. Being in any position for a prolonged period of time that shifts the spine from its proper ‘S’ curve, can lead to pain in the upper back and neck.

Ask your physical therapist to demonstrate the proper way to hold your spine if you find yourself consistently slouched over.

When we have too much to do or life simply becomes overwhelming, most of us carry that stress in our bodies. Mental stress often manifests itself in a physical way that causes us to hold stiffer postures that place tension on the neck and back. Since the spine is a unit, carrying stress in the upper back or neck can cause pain in the lumbar region as well.

For many back pain sufferers, the stress from a previous injury may cause the pain to travel up to another area of the back. It is instinct for most of us to brace ourselves from pain by tightening up, which can inadvertently cause pain to worsen or travel. Additionally stress also causes us to lose focus on other important aspects of back health such as posture.

One of the primary causes of neck and upper back pain is trauma or injury. These injuries often occur swiftly and the pain can range from mild to severe, unlike lifestyle related pain which can occur over time and present as a dull, nagging ache. When these injuries occur it is best to seek out medical help right away to assess the extent of the injury and seek effective treatment.

What To Do About It

There are many different treatments available to treat upper back and neck pain, however the most effective treatment plan will rely on an accurate diagnosis. In many cases the obvious cause for the pain may be only a secondary cause, with underlying issues causing being the actual culprit. For example, lower back pain may be what is causing the upper back pain, but the lower back pain may be due to a pinched nerve or herniated disc.

The most common forms of treatment are pharmaceuticals in the form of pain and anti-inflammatory medication. There are plenty of natural back pain treatments available that include herbs and natural supplements that relieve pain and reduce swelling. If you prefer not to use chemicals to treat pain and swelling, hot and cold therapy is just as effective at reducing swelling and relieving pain.

Treating neck and upper back pain means treating not just the symptoms but also the cause of the symptoms. Your physician may recommend therapeutic pillows for sitting and sleeping, but will often refer you to a physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist or acupuncturist. These have all proven effective as part of a fully focused pain treatment plan. 

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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