If you regularly sit or stand hunched over a desk or workstation, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the stiffness and aching of upper back pain (also known medically as upper thoracic pain). Whilst this part of your spine is much less susceptible to injury than your mid or lower back, research shows that nearly one in ten men and one in five women are affected by upper back pain in the UK (Occupational Medicine, March 2015).
What causes upper back pain?
Though it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of upper back pain, common causes include:
- Muscle strain or sprain can occur due to sudden movements or direct trauma to the area.
- Overuse: occurs when you are engaging in activities that require repetitive motions, such as typing or working at a computer.
- Lifting with improper technique can result in upper back pain.
- Poor posture: slouching or hunching over while sitting or standing can cause the muscles in your upper back to become strained.
- But sometimes, the cause isn’t known – this is called ‘non-specific back pain’ or ‘iatrogenic’ pain.
Some medical conditions can cause upper back pain, such as:
- Arthritis is a common cause of upper back pain, especially in older individuals.
- Fractured vertebrae: Accidents may cause bones in the spine to break, impairing movement.
- Osteoarthritis: Although more common in the neck and lower back, this “wear and tear” type of arthritis can also be in the upper back.
- Osteoporosis: Weak, brittle bones are more susceptible to fractures.
- In addition, various medical conditions can present with upper back pain, e.g. heart disease and gall bladder dysfunction.
What are the Symptoms of Upper Back Pain
Common symptoms associated with upper back pain include:
- Stiffness in the back and neck
- Aching or burning between the shoulder blades and neck
- Pain in the upper back when breathing deeply
How can I relieve my upper back pain?
Get up and move! This will always be your primary ‘go to’ solution.
If you can’t change position and move then one way to help alleviate this type of pain is to do some simple stretches and exercises that target the muscles in your upper back.
Some basic upper back stretches include:
-Shoulder blade squeezes: Sit or stand with your shoulders relaxed and down. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.
-Neck rolls: Slowly roll your head from side to side, letting your chin drop down toward each shoulder as you go. Do this 10 times in each direction.
-Upper back bends: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips, look up and gently arch backwards (or even just straighten up!).
What are the treatment options for mid back pain?
Your first priority is to get a competent assessment. Here at the Backcare and Acupuncture Clinic all of our expert clinicians will know whether you can be safely treated in the clinic with a choice of osteopathy for back pain, physiotherapy, acupuncture and deep tissue massage or need to be referred back to your doctor for your upper back pain.
When should I worry about upper back pain?
Most upper back pain typically resolves in a few weeks with treatment at home, including stretching, taking pain relievers, applying heat or ice, or moderating certain activities that may cause back strain. It can certainly be uncomfortable, painful and inconvenient but it is not a cause for worry.
However, if you experience any of the following symptoms with upper back pain, seek medical advice without delay:
- Pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms and/or legs
- Fever without flu-like symptoms
- Unexplained weight loss
- A slowing in the reaction time of arms and legs
- Shortness of breath and chest pain
- Upper back pain lasting longer than six weeks that prevents you from doing daily activities
- Chronic Numbness in the upper, inner thigh, groin, buttock or genital areas
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Frequently Asked Questions
What happens during my initial consultation?
Our priority upon your arrival is to ensure that you feel welcome, comfortable, and well-informed about your appointment. Typically, your initial consultation will last between 45 minutes to an hour. One of our experienced osteopaths will meet you and begin by attentively listening to you. We will inquire about your general health, any current pain you may be experiencing, your medical history, medications you may be taking, and review any medical examination results.
After this initial discussion, we may conduct specific tests to make a diagnosis. You may be asked to perform some gentle movements to allow us to evaluate your posture and mobility.
Using this important information, we will then create a personalized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs.
What will happen AFTER an initial consultation?
During your second visit to our clinic, we will provide a detailed explanation of our findings from your history and examination. By the end of this session, you will be able to answer several crucial questions, including:
- What is causing my symptoms?
- What are the available treatment options?
- How long is the expected recovery time?
- How much treatment will be necessary based on your personalized treatment plan?
- How much will your treatment cost?
- What can I do to help myself?
- What changes do I need to make to get better, faster?
We take the time to explain and clarify the causes of your symptoms and what can be done to alleviate them. At this stage, we will have created a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
What can I expect after my first treatment?
The response to treatment varies from person to person, as everyone is unique. The initial treatment is a crucial step in gauging the patient’s reaction to treatment and determining the best course of action to meet their individual needs.
Immediate relief may be experienced by some patients after the first session, while others may require multiple sessions to see significant progress. It’s vital for patients to realize that treatment is not a one-time fix and that it may take a number of sessions to achieve long-term results, particularly for chronic issues or long-standing musculoskeletal imbalances.
Is treatment painful?
The treatments themselves are not painful, but there might be some discomfort after the spinal manipulation as your body adjusts to the treatment and improved posture. This can result in stiffness in certain regions, which is a natural occurrence, and we recommend using an ice pack on the area for 10 minutes after your session and staying hydrated.
What causes the cracking sound during the treatment?
The cracking or popping sound heard during an osteopathic treatment is caused by the release of nitrogen gas from the joints. This is a normal and common occurrence and may not always happen depending on the technique used. The sound itself is neither significant or important to your progress.
What is the cost of the initial consultation?
The initial consultation is priced at £65, which comprises a thorough spinal evaluation including muscle and nerve testing, orthopaedic examination, as well as posture and movement analysis.
What is the cost of the each treatment?
Each treatment is £45 if you pay as you go. However, we do have discount options available depending on what works best for you.
What days and times are you open?
Monday – Friday 8am – 8pm,
Saturday – 8am – 2pm
Sunday – closed
How long will it take for me to feel better?
The length of time it will take to start to feel better varies a good deal between patients. This difference is based on several factors, including the how long you’ve had the problem and how severe it’s become, your lifestyle and demands of work and family as well as your individual capacity to respond to treatment.
Generally, patients with acute conditions (recent onset) may experience significant improvement within a few sessions, while those with chronic conditions (your symptoms have been present for more than 12 weeks) may require more treatment sessions to attain long-lasting outcomes.
The secrets to getting well are to always turn up for your treatment, follow the guidance of your practitioner and get involved in your own recovery. Don’t delegate your health to your practitioner. It is always a partnership!
What happens if I miss an appointment?
We recognize that we all have busy lives beyond the Backcare and Acupuncture Clinics, but please let us know as soon as possible if you are unable to keep your appointment, and we will make every effort to reschedule it for you. We will make every effort to accommodate your particular schedule