chiropractor helping patient with upper back pain

Upper Back Pain- Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More!

Upper Back Pain Treatment

The upper back (referred to as the thoracic spine) consists of twelve vertebrae, discs, muscles and ligaments. Back pain that occurs from the bottom of the rib cage up to the base of the neck is classified as ‘upper back pain’. This type of pain can be experienced by people of all age groups.

While upper back pain is not as common as lower back pain, at Broadway AT Yew Chiropractic & Massage, we successfully treat many patients suffering from this condition.

What Causes Upper Back Pain?

There are a variety of causes of upper back pain. Here are some of the most common causes:

Trauma or injury to the muscles, ligaments or discs.

This can occur if you experience a fall or are involved in some type of accident, where the upper back suffers an injury.

Strain or overuse

This is common to people who work on computers all day. Repetitive movements of the arms and shoulders can lead to strain and repetitive stress injuries.
Bad posture – this is common to people who work on computers all day. Slumping and slouching can have a wide impact on all of the muscles and ligaments in any part of your back.
Pressure on the spinal nerves – this can be caused by herniated disks or one or more vertebrae being out of place.
Fractured vertebrae – this usually occurs as the result of trauma, injury or osteoporosis.
Osteoarthritis – this condition inflammation in the joints that can lead to pain.
Upper back pain can also be caused by other conditions such as stomach problems, gallbladder disease, infection, Myofascial Pain Syndrome etc.

Symptoms of Upper back Pain

As noted, upper back pain is any back pain that is felt from the bottom of the rib cage up to the base of the neck. This pain can be experienced in different ways. The most common symptoms our patients report include the following:

  • A sudden onset with sharp burning pain
  • A slow onset that presents as a dull constant ache that gets worse over time
  • Causes muscle tightness and/or stiffness
  • Pain in a very concentrated area such as the shoulder blade
  • Numbness and tingling in arms and hands
  • Weakness in the arms or legs

Treatment Options for Upper Back Pain

For some people, using a ‘watchful waiting’ approach to upper back pain is the first step. Depending on the cause of the pain, the symptoms may resolve on their own, and no treatment will be necessary. But for others, treatment may be required to address both the pain and the underlying cause.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of treatment offered, beginning with the chiropractic treatments we offer at Broadway AT Yew Chiropractic & Massage.

Chiropractic Approach to Upper Back Pain

As Chiropractors, we understand that the upper back (thoracic spine) consists of many joints and muscles. Additionally, there are 12 vertebrae in the thoracic portion of the spine. If just one joint or muscle within the thoracic spine is inflamed, or a single vertebrae is out of place, it can cause pain throughout the upper back, ribs, and sternum.

We use several different techniques to help alleviate our patient’s upper back pain that include the following:

Chiropractic Adjustment/Manipulation

A Chiropractic Adjustment/Manipulation is a technique where we will apply manipulation to the vertebrae in the thoracic spine. The objective of this technique is to increase range of motion of your upper back, which in turn will help reduce inflammation of the nerves.

Active Release Technique

During this technique, we will apply pressure and tension on certain areas of the soft tissues of the thoracic spine in order to ‘release’ tightness and restore range of motion.

Exercise For Upper Back Pain

Our Chiropractors will often prescribe certain exercises to do at home. The types of exercises will depend on the cause of your back pain. The following exercises have proven to be helpful when treating upper back pain:

Pectoralis Stretch
Thoracic Extension
Arm Slide
Scapular Squeeze
Mid-trap Exercise
Thoracic Stretch
Quadruped Arm/Leg Raise
Rowing Exercise
Performing these types of exercise in between Chiropractic appointments will help to maintain the benefits of our Chiropractic treatments.

At Broadway AT Yew Chiropractic & Massage, we believe that our natural approach to treating your upper back pain is the safest and most effective way to restore you to good health, without the side effects of other treatment types.

Other Treatment Types – At Home

Here are some of the things you do at home to help with your upper back pain:


Patients can use over the counter pain medications and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to help reduce their upper back pain.

Heat and Ice

Alternating between heat and ice can help upper back pain. Heat will reduce pain and stiffness, and ice will reduce swelling and inflammation.

Changing Your Posture

Patients who suffer upper back pain due to bad posture (such as people who work at a computer all day) can take steps to improve their posture so as to relieve the stressed muscles in the thoracic spine. Sitting and standing up straight and not slouching or slumping will offer almost immediate relief.

Stretching Exercises For Upper Back Pain

As noted above, stretching exercises can be very helpful in eliminating upper back pain, by helping the muscles to loosen up, thus relieving the strain and tension caused by tight muscles.

Other Treatment Types – Medical

Depending on the severity of your upper back pain, your doctor may wish to conduct diagnostic tests to help diagnose the root cause. Such tests include a physical exam, X-rays, and MRIs.
Once your doctor has diagnosed the cause, treatment will commence. This treatment may include prescription pain and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and in some very severe cases, surgery to repair things like herniated disks.

Upper Back Pain Summary

Upper back pain can have a range of causes and treatments. While there are things you can do at home to help, and medical treatments available, at Broadway AT Yew Chiropractic & Massage, we believe in treating upper back pain with natural techniques and procedures that don’t carry the risks some of the other treatments do. Contact our Vancouver chiropractors today to discuss your upper back pain issues!

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