4 Leading Causes of Upper Back Pain

Millions of Americans seek treatment because of suffering from acute pain. Surveys indicate that 1 in 4 Americans experience pain, which lasts for more than 24 hours. Many of the patients with severe pain experience upper back pain, which is also known as thoracic spine pain (TSP). Upper back pain is less prevalent than neck pain or lower back pain. A study by the Occupational Medicine Journal indicates that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience upper back pain. What then could be causing your upper back pain? This piece presents to you four common and five less common causes of upper back pain.

Four Common Causes of Upper Back Pain

1. Poor posture

A sedentary lifestyle coupled with routine sitting for lengthy periods, and in poor posture, is a common cause of structural changes in the neck and back. The muscles in these areas get weak and deconditioned due to the changes. As such, the muscles become unable to hold your spine in a neutral alignment. Hunching your shoulders forwards exerts more pressure on your ligaments, muscles, bones, the spine, and the surrounding soft tissues. In the end, such changes lead to TSP.

2. Traumatic injuries from accidents

Trauma from accident falls, or collision can cause injuries to the nerves, soft tissues, ligaments, muscles, discs, and spinal column bones, thus causing upper back pain.

3. Muscle overuse

Overusing your upper back muscles when attending to chores that involve work that’s above your head can strain your upper back and neck muscles. Such strain leads to TSP.

4. Lifting of heavy objects

If you lift heavy objects while in a position where your spine is not well-aligned, you may exert undue pressure on your upper back. If your lifting is towards the sides of your shoulders, then you’re likely to cause injury to your shoulders, and this may lead to TSP.

What are the less common causes of TSP?

1. Osteoarthritis and osteoporotic fractures

Sometimes the cause of upper back pain lies not in the muscles and ligaments, but within the bones and joints, and related problems such as osteoporotic fractures. As you age, the cartilage between your bones wears down, and the bones may begin rubbing against each other, causing nerve pain and upper back pain. Osteoporosis may also lead to TSP because it causes the bones on your upper back to weaken and become less dense. Less dense bones are vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. Such osteoporotic fractures can lead to upper back pain if they occur in the upper back region. Taking a diet rich in calcium reduces your chances of you getting osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures.

2. Herniated thoracic discs

Discs are soft and rubber-like cushions between the bones of your vertebral column. Herniated discs occur when one of these discs pokes through and exerts pressure on the spine. Even small amounts of pressure from herniated discs can cause significant back pain and weakness and numbness in the legs or arms.

3. Spinal deformity

Extensive spinal deformity can stress your joints and discs or lead to painful muscle spasms. Examples of spinal deformities that may lead to this problem include scoliosis and kyphosis.

4. Fibromyalgia and cancer

Fibromyalgia is a rare condition that causes fatigue and widespread pain to the entire body. This pain may extend to the upper back region. Lung cancer or cancerous tissues that press against the upper back area may also cause upper back pain.

5. Vertebral compression fractures

Your vertebral column cartilage can wear away due to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, or osteoarthritis. In such cases, the vertebra experience increased compression from the vertebral column above them, which they can’t support. They develop fractures and become wedge-shaped, and this leads to posture changes that cause upper back pain. Such problems may lead to pinched nerves and spinal infections that also lead to TSP.

Upper back pain can be mild, acute, short-term, or long-term. Whichever the case, never assume that it’s no big deal. If your upper back pain limits your movement, isn’t responsive to treatment, or lingers for long, then it’s time to seek more medical attention.

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