In addition to upper back problems, shoulder pain can also be a potentially unexpected symptom of spinal deterioration or damage in the cervical and thoracic spine segments. Typically, if you are experiencing a sore shoulder, your first thought might not be that a compressed nerve in your back is to blame, but this is often the case. To better understand this concept requires a closer look at the nervous system and our ability to transfer and receive information throughout the body.
Nerve roots and upper back pain
The central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord, with nerve roots branching off the cord and nerves extending throughout the body. The individual neurons receive motor or sensory signals from the brain and send back pertinent information, providing us with our sense of spatial awareness, touch and the ability to detect pain. The ulnar nerve in the upper back, for example, branches off the spinal cord between the cervical spine (neck) and the thoracic spine (middle back) and extends through the shoulders all the way down to the fingertips. As everyone knows, when this span of unprotected nerves is hit, a familiar pain and tingling feeling can extend all the way through the arms to the hands.
Causes of upper back pain
Nerve compression at the vertebral level works in a similar way. If a nerve root is compressed in the spinal column it can send pain signals throughout the nerve, causing symptoms to radiate to other parts of the body. Common sources of upper back problems and shoulder pain include:
- Degenerative disc disease (DDD) or other intervertebral disc problems
- Facet disease
- Bone spurs
Treatment for upper back pain
If you are experiencing upper back pain, shoulder pain or any other symptom of nerve compression, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive procedures to address back pain and to request a free review of your MRI or CT scan.