Upper back shoulder pain

Along with upper back problems, shoulder pain can also be an unexpected symptom of spinal deterioration or damage in the cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper back) spine segments. If you are experiencing a sore shoulder, you may not think that a compressed nerve in your back is to blame, but this is often the case.

To better understand this concept, let’s take a closer look at the nervous system and how we transfer and receive information throughout the body.

Nerve roots and upper back pain

The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, with nerve roots branching off the cord and traveling throughout the body. Individual nerves 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), then travels through the shoulders, all the way down to the fingertips.

When this span of unprotected nerves is affected, a 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 spinal disc problems
  • Facet disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stenosis
  • Bone spurs

These spine conditions are more likely to develop with age as our spinal discs weaken. This means that nerve compression may sometimes be unavoidable.

Treatment for upper back pain

If you are experiencing upper back pain, shoulder pain or other symptoms of nerve compression, we recommended speaking with your physician to receive a proper diagnosis. He or she will probably prescribe a conservative treatment plan that may include pain medication, physical therapy, exercise or extended rest, among others.

If conservative treatments fail to address your upper back shoulder pain, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery that has helped more than 60,000 people find relief chronic neck or back pain.

Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open neck and back surgery, and offer many advantages, such as a lower risk of complication and shorter recovery time.^

Find out if you’re a candidate for our spine surgery today by contacting Laser Spine Institute and asking for a no-cost MRI review* from our team. Let us help you take the next step toward reclaiming your life from chronic pain.