Chronic upper back pain affects millions of people worldwide and makes the simplest daily activities – like reading a newspaper, sitting at a computer or even nodding – triggers for neck pain. Symptoms may include tingling, numbness, radicular pain, weakness and loss of mobility in the upper body and extremities. The term “chronic” means that the symptoms have been experienced for three months or longer.
The upper back refers to the cervical region of the spine, which includes vertebrae C1 to C7. These vertebrae are extremely important for several reasons. Not only do the seven cervical vertebrae control head movements like nodding and shaking, but they also serve as a structure for your head to rest upon. C1 is the atlas vertebrae, which connects the skull to the spine, and C2 is the axis vertebrae, upon which the atlas rotates. Upper back pain in this region can manifest as pain that begins in the neck and radiates down into the shoulders, arms and hands.
Causes of chronic upper back pain include the following:
- Bulging disc – an intervertebral disc weakens and extrudes beyond its normal perimeter in the spinal column
- Herniated disc – a disc ruptures and leaks disc material into the spinal canal
- Bone spurs – extra growths of smooth bone cause neural pressure
- Degenerative disc disease – a weakening of intervertebral discs due to aging
- Foraminal cervical stenosis – a narrowing of the cervical foramen, which are the nerve root passageways in the neck area
It is important to remember that chronic neck or back pain symptoms may prompt your physician to suggest surgery, though surgery should not be considered unless you have tried a more conservative course of treatment. First, you may want to explore the possibility of trying anti-inflammatory medication, mild chiropractic work, gentle stretching of the neck and upper back region or steroid injections. If your symptoms persist and progress into chronic back pain, you might consider surgery. However, many traditional back pain surgery options involve long recovery periods and a risk of infection.
There are alternatives to traditional open back surgery, however. Laser Spine Institute has used minimally invasive procedures to help tens of thousands of people around the world find meaningful relief from back pain. Contact us for more information about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that can address the source of your pain and have shorter recovery periods than traditional open back surgery. We are ready to talk to you about your chronic upper back pain.