Tuesday, May 28, 2024 6 min read

5 Tips That May Help Relieve Upper Back Pain

Bridget Reed

5 Tips That May Help Relieve Upper Back Pain product
5 Tips That May Help Relieve Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain, a common complaint among both athletes and non-athletes alike, can often be a barrier to an active lifestyle. It's a discomfort that can sneak up on you during your daily activities, or gradually build over time. 


Regardless of how it presents itself, it's a hurdle that many of us face. The good news? There's a wealth of knowledge and solutions out there that can help you understand and manage this pain.


This article will delve into the nitty gritty of upper back pain: from understanding the anatomy that plays a pivotal role in this discomfort to exploring what can cause it. We'll also look at a variety of tips that may help you soothe tension, maintain healthy blood flow, and support muscle relaxation.


Understanding the Anatomy of the Upper Back

The upper back, or the thoracic spine, is a complex structure that plays a vital role in our overall movement and stability. It's nestled between the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine), consisting of 12 vertebrae that are attached to the rib cage.


Two key muscles in this region are the trapezius and rhomboid. The trapezius, a large, triangular muscle, extends down the back of the neck and upper spine. 


The rhomboid muscles, located beneath the trapezius, connect the spine with the edges of the shoulder blades. These muscles work together to support the shoulder blades, playing a crucial role in maintaining good posture and allowing a wide range of motion.


What Can Cause Upper Back Pain?

Upper back pain can stem from a variety of sources, and it's often a symptom of how we live our lives day-to-day. One of the most common causes is overuse. Repetitive movements or holding a single position for extended periods can strain the muscles and ligaments in the upper back, leading to discomfort and tension.


Poor posture, especially common in today's digital world, can also lead to upper back pain. Slumping or hunching over keyboards and smartphones can put extra stress on the back muscles, particularly the trapezius and rhomboid, and the thoracic spine itself.


Physical conditions like a herniated disc or osteoarthritis can also cause upper back pain. A herniated disc occurs when the inner gel-like substance of a spinal disc protrudes, potentially causing pain and discomfort. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a degenerative condition that can affect any joint in the body, including those in the thoracic spine.


Lastly, it's important to remember that pain can be interconnected. Issues like lower back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain can contribute to discomfort in the upper back, as the body compensates for pain in one area by overusing muscles and ligaments in another. 


Understanding this interconnected nature of pain can be key to finding the most effective ways to soothe discomfort and promote relaxation.


Six Tips To Help Relieve Back Pain

As you navigate your journey to upper back pain relief, here are several strategies that may help you manage discomfort, support healthy blood flow, and promote muscle relaxation.


1. Good Posture and Daily Activities

Good posture is more than just standing tall. It’s about aligning your body so that stress on your muscles and ligaments is minimized. Whether you’re sitting, standing, or moving, try to maintain a neutral spine position. 


One way to visualize this is the 90-degree angle rule: when sitting, keep your knees and elbows at right angles, and align your ears over your shoulders. Consider using lumbar support to maintain this alignment. A wearable posture support can be helpful in encouraging good posture throughout the day.


2. Strengthening Exercises and Gentle Stretching

Strengthening your back muscles and improving flexibility can help support your spine and reduce discomfort. Gentle exercises, such as shoulder rolls, can be beneficial. 


Start by standing or sitting tall, then roll your shoulders up, back, and down in a smooth motion. Foam rollers can also be useful tools for stretching and relieving muscle tension.


3. Deep Breathing

Never underestimate the power of your breath. Deep, mindful breathing can help calm your mind and body, potentially reducing muscle tension. Try inhaling deeply, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly. Doing this several times a day can help you stay relaxed and manage discomfort.


4. Use of Heat and Cold

Applying heat or cold to your upper back can help soothe discomfort. An ice pack can be beneficial for recent injuries or strains, as cold can reduce inflammation. Conversely, a heating pad can help ease muscle tension and promote blood flow, especially for discomfort that’s been nagging for more than a day.


5. OTC Medication

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can provide temporary relief from discomfort. Topical creams and patches that contain pain-relieving ingredients can also be beneficial. As with all medications, use them as directed and be aware of potential side effects.


When To Seek Medical Advice

While many cases of upper back discomfort can be managed with self-care strategies, it's essential to know when to seek medical advice. If your discomfort is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms like numbness, weakness, or difficulty moving, it's time to consult a healthcare provider. 


Professionals such as physical therapists and orthopedic specialists can provide a comprehensive evaluation and guide you in a personalized approach to managing your discomfort. Moreover, they can help you identify any underlying conditions that might be contributing to your discomfort and guide you toward a more targeted strategy for relief.


Prevention of Upper Back Pain

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are a few strategies that may help you avoid upper back discomfort in the first place.


Avoid Overuse

In our daily routines, it's easy to overlook how much we demand from our upper back muscles. This could involve anything from carrying heavy bags to hunching over a laptop. Being mindful of these activities and making an effort to avoid repetitive motions that strain your upper back can make a significant difference. 


Remember to take regular breaks to move, stretch, and adjust your position. It's also crucial to remember that not only strenuous physical activities lead to overuse. Even prolonged periods of sitting at a desk or constantly looking down at your phone can put a strain on your upper back.


Maintain Range of Motion

Keeping your muscles flexible is key to avoiding tightness and discomfort in your upper back. Regular movement and stretching exercises should be staples in your daily routine. 


Simple exercises like shoulder rolls or gentle twists can do wonders in maintaining flexibility in your upper back and shoulder blades. Remember, it's not about the complexity of the exercise but the consistency in performing it.


Get the Right Nutrients

The health of your muscles and bones heavily depends on your diet. Consuming a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide your body with the necessary nutrients. These nutrients support muscle strength, bone health, and overall body functionality, which in turn can contribute to a healthier upper back.


Incorporate a Mix of Exercises Into Your Routine

Physical activity is crucial in maintaining overall fitness and back health. A well-rounded exercise routine that includes strength training, flexibility exercises, and cardio can help keep your back muscles strong and resilient. Strength training can build muscle endurance, flexibility exercises can improve range of motion, and cardio can enhance circulation, all supporting a healthier back.


Stay Hydrated

Hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of your spinal discs and muscle functionality. Drinking adequate amounts of water can help keep your spinal discs healthy, which are vital for absorbing shock and stress in your spine. Moreover, well-hydrated muscles are less prone to tension and cramping, contributing to a healthier back.


The Bottom Line

Upper back discomfort can be a real hurdle, but with the right knowledge and strategies, you can take steps to manage it. From maintaining good posture and regular exercise to using compression gear, there are various ways to support what your body does naturally.


As you continue on your path to an active, healthy lifestyle, we invite you to explore our blog, all about fitness and health




Upper Back Pain: What it is, Causes, How it Feels & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

3 surprising risks of poor posture | Harvard Health

How to improve posture and relieve pain with your breath | CNN

Back exercises in 15 minutes a day | Mayo Clinic

Benefits of Compression Gear | UPMC HealthBeat

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