Chronic upper back pain

Chronic upper back pain affects millions of people worldwide and makes the simplest daily activities — reading a newspaper, sitting at a computer or even nodding — triggers for neck pain. Symptoms can also include tingling, numbness, radicular pain, weakness and loss of mobility in the upper body and extremities. The term chronic means the symptoms have been experienced for three months or longer.

The upper back refers to the cervical region of the spine, which includes vertebrae numbered C1 to C7. These vertebrae are important for several reasons. In addition to supporting the head and allowing for movement, the vertebrae also protect the spinal cord. These two roles can work against each other, however, as pressure from weight and movement can lead to spine conditions that cause painful nerve compression. Nerve compression can manifest as pain and other symptoms that begin in the neck and radiate down into the shoulders, arms and hands.

What causes chronic upper back pain?

Specific spine conditions that cause chronic upper back pain include the following:

  • A bulging disc — a spinal disc weakens and extends beyond its normal perimeter in the spinal column
  • A herniated disc — a disc ruptures and leaks disc material into the spinal canal
  • Bone spurs — extra growths of smooth bone that cause neural pressure
  • Degenerative disc disease — a weakening of discs due to aging
  • Foraminal cervical stenosis — a narrowing of the nerve root passageways in the upper spine

Upon diagnosing a spine condition as the cause of upper back pain, your doctor will typically recommend a course of conservative treatments. Options will usually include 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 open back surgery options involve long recovery periods and a risk of complication.

Laser Spine Institute

However, there are alternatives to traditional open neck or back surgery. Since 2005 Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 60,000 patients find lasting relief from back pain. Contact us for more information about our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that can address the source of your pain while offering a shorter recovery period^ than traditional open back surgery.

Reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.