Upper back pain treatment options for lasting relief

Upper back pain, while less common than neck or lower back pain, can sometimes make daily activities difficult. The pain and symptoms that develop in the upper back can extend around the rib cage and into the chest, shoulder, arm and hand, making simple activities, such as sleeping or driving, extremely painful.

The upper back encompasses the thoracic (middle) region of the spine. This section of the spine provides stability to the torso and acts as a base for the rib cage. One of the best ways to protect the thoracic spine and maintain its overall health is to strengthen the large muscles in the upper back. This will help support the thoracic spine and take some of the pressure off the vertebrae and discs to keep them from wearing down quickly.

Strengthening upper back muscles to prevent and treat pain

Many people neglect the upper back muscles when exercising, while focusing more attention on the abdominal muscles, chest and legs. This type of exercise can lead to unbalanced muscle development. In other words, the back may be weaker than the abdomen and the chest, which may cause poor posture and an increased risk of back injury due to the lack of support for the upper back.

The key muscles in the upper back are:

  • Trapezius. A large, vaguely diamond-shaped muscle that extends vertically from the back of the skull to the lower part of the thoracic spine and horizontally from one shoulder blade to the other.
  • Latissimus dorsi. A large, flat muscle that extends from the lumbar (lower) spine to the side of the rib cage on both sides of the torso.
  • Rhomboids. Two rhombus-shaped muscles (the rhomboid major and minor) extending from the lower cervical (upper) spine in the neck and upper thoracic spine to the shoulder blade.
  • Levator scapulae. Muscles that extend from the upper cervical spine to the top of the shoulder blades and are located along the sides of the neck.

These muscles are crucial to spinal support. Thus, one of the most important things to do when seeking upper back pain treatment, or when trying to prevent it, is to exercise these (and other) muscles.

Treatment for upper back pain

When pain occurs in the upper back, your physician may recommend treatment that focuses on regaining mobility while also managing the pain and symptoms.

Other than muscle-strengthening exercises, conservative treatments may include:

  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medication
  • Yoga and stretching
  • Lifestyle changes like posture correction or quitting smoking
  • Chiropractic care

If these conservative treatments do not offer pain relief, your doctor may recommend spine surgery for your upper back pain.

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Patients choose our minimally invasive procedures because they offer a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open back surgery.

To see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and ask for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*