Your upper back has an important job. It’s responsible for keeping your back stable and helping to protect organs like your heart and lungs. It doesn’t flex or move nearly as much as your lower back, and for this reason it’s far less susceptible to degeneration and injury.
But when upper back pain does occur, it can be debilitating, leading to shooting pains and muscle stiffness that can make simple activities like brushing your teeth or driving a car unbearable. Upper back pain can also be dull and nagging, a constant reminder of years of insidious “abuse” to your back …
Most Upper Back Pain is the Result of Very Common Activities
Do you …
- Carry a heavy backpack?
- Have large breasts or are you pregnant (for women)?
- Have poor posture while sitting or standing?
- Engage in repetitive motions, such as using a shovel for digging?
These common activities and conditions can contribute to muscle imbalances that cause upper back pain over time. Preventing this type of pain means taking time to stretch and rebalance your muscles regularly throughout the day, and avoiding activities that put strain on your upper back muscles. Most people don’t stop to think about this until back pain has already occurred. While this means some damage has already been done, it’s not too late to get lasting pain relief and even experience healing … provided you choose the right upper back pain treatment.
What Types of Upper Back Pain Treatment Should You Avoid?
Any treatment that only temporarily covers up your symptoms while leaving the underlying muscle imbalances, inflammation, other causes of your pain untouched is not worth your time or money. Likewise for those that only treat the superficial symptoms and increase your risk of serious side effects like heart problems, painkiller addiction, liver damage and more. Unfortunately, these descriptions apply to the vast majority of upper back pain treatments being offered by conventional doctors, which are often medications such as:
- Aspirin and prescription NSAIDs: Risks include perforated ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding
- Tylenol: A leading cause of liver failure
- Celebrex: Which can triple your risk of heart attack
As for surgery, this is still a rare occurrence for upper back pain (surgery for back pain is only performed in about 5% of all cases, and only 1% of all disc herniations occur in the upper back, due to its stability). This is fortunate because, as with pain medications, surgery does nothing to address the reasons why your back pain likely developed.
So What are the Best Upper Back Pain Treatments?
We’re glad you asked, because there are many options you probably aren’t aware of that can work wonders for your pain, and unlike the go-to treatments listed above, will actually help heal the underlying triggers of your pain at the same time.
5. Have a Desk Job? Get a Chair That Supports Your Back
It’s essential to address this ongoing cause of upper back pain; if you don’t, any steps you take to resolve your pain will be counteracted by poor posture that will cause your pain to continue. So if you sit at a desk all day, make sure you are using a proper ergonomic back-supportive office chair and use this mid-back stretch to keep your thoracic region open and well-balanced.
4. Knock Out Your Trigger Points
The muscles in your upper back may be affected by myofascial pain, which is characterized by aching “knots” also known as “trigger points.” If left untreated they can become a center for irritation and inflammation in your muscles and nerves. This ongoing inflammation leads to fibrosis, which thickens your connective tissues. Thicker connective tissue is less flexible, leading to a vicious cycle of additional irritation, tension, and pain as your body pulls on each trigger point.
When in the “active” phase, trigger points are very painful, although the pain may be “referred pain,” meaning it can be felt in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. Because of this, trigger points are often completely missed as your source of pain, as you could be feeling pain in your buttocks, hip or even down your leg but the actual trigger point needing to be released is located in your upper back.
Trigger point therapy involves applying deep, manual pressure to trigger points to relieve pain. You can go to a massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor or even a trigger point specialist to receive manual trigger point therapy, but the success of the treatment depends on the skill level of the practitioner. As an alternative, you can also perform trigger point therapy on yourself, in the comfort of your own home.
3. Try Natural Pain Relief Options
Before you resort to prescription or even over-the-counter medications, you should know there are safer options for pain relief available. For example, one such back pain cream is Rub on Relief. This pain cream was formulated to address many of the foundational reasons why you are in pain.
While giving you the simplicity and fast-acting relief you expect from a pain cream, Rub on Relief does so without methyl salicylate (a common component of many over-the-counter back pain creams, which can be toxic), and it contains no other questionable ingredients either, including NO parabens, petrolatum, paraffin, mineral oil, toluene, artificial colors, preservatives or NSAID drugs of any kind.
What it does contain is a synergistic blend of ingredients, each carefully selected to address pain and inflammation from a slightly different angle.
2. Turn on the Heat (Heat Therapy, That Is)
Research suggests that “heat therapy may be helpful in reducing pain and increasing function in patients with acute low back pain.”[i] It works because heat causes your body to circulate more blood to the painful area, which brings more oxygen and nutrients while removing waste products, which help heal the tissue.
There are many options for heat therapy – heating lamps, heating pads, saunas, hot tubs, hot showers, pain creams with cayenne pepper and even ultrasound, which is a form of heat — but one of the methods that stands out above the rest is far-infrared heat. Far-infrared heat transforms safe light energy into safe heat energy, at a frequency that penetrates your body up to three inches with an even distribution and prolonged thermal effects for pain relief.
Ordinary heating pads are slow to heat and do no more than warm your skin. With penetration of just 2-3mm (about the thickness of your skin), they simply can’t penetrate far enough to warm deep muscle, tissue and organs. Far-infrared heat, on the other hand, heats fast and penetrates so deep, you’ll feel the comfort and pain relief last up to six hours (depending on how long you soak in the heat), compared to stopping the instant you turn off an ordinary heating pad.
A heating pad using far-infrared heat is one of the most soothing, and simple, upper back pain treatments available, and it is often overlooked.
1. Correct Your Muscle Imbalances
Out of the four primary postural dysfunctions, a forward head posture is the one most commonly associated with upper back pain. Is your head and neck leaning forward toward the computer screen as you read this? If so, chances are high that you have already developed significant muscle imbalances between your chest and upper back, front and rear shoulders, and front and rear of your neck.
If it hasn’t already, soon this may manifest into serious upper back pain.
The good news is that once your muscle imbalances are corrected, posture dysfunctions resolve themselves and the pain caused by these muscle stressors goes away. The Lose the Back Pain System takes you step-by-step through the process of identifying the exact muscle imbalances you have. It then gives you the targeted stretches and exercises you need to get fast upper back pain relief. Thousands of physicians prescribe this system, and tens of thousands of people like you have already experienced its lasting results.
Please take a minute to learn more now about this amazing upper back pain treatment.
Finally, to stay on top of the latest advances in upper back pain relief, and to receive more tips to becoming pain free, subscribe to LosetheBackPain.com’s free newsletter using the subscribe button in the upper right corner of this page.
You, too, can join the growing numbers of people who have beat upper back pain naturally and are now living their lives pain free.
Written By: Updated: August 9,2012
1 thought on “Upper Back Pain Treatment: The 5 Best Solutions and What to Avoid”
An excellent article, but concerning the heat therapy I beg to differ. It is a common mistake to advice applying heat but it should be the opposite, becuase imflammation produces heat and so to disperse it, cold needs to be applied. In our Chinese medicine clinics we advice patients with pains and aches as a supplement to the treatment, to apply cold compresses to the aching area (using a rolled towel and ice from the fridge) and baths using special concentrated dead sea salt. This works wonders every time.