Question: How to prevent upper back pain while sitting and sleeping?

I’m having some seriously bad back pains. I’m 16 years old and recently (over the last few months) my back has been hurting quite badly. Usually during the morning its fine, but by about 5:00 it gets really bad, especially right at the spine in the middle towards my upper back, just in between my shoulder blades.

When I come home and sit in a chair or even try to go to sleep, it’s awful. Sitting on a chair makes it feel really bad and I’ve resorted to slouching and moving around to make it bearable. Also when I stand and do simple things, like ironing or drawing or even just picking something up, it’s become really, really bad. When I go to sleep, it takes about 30 minutes before the pain calms down.

The pain started when I used to review for exams. I would lean against the backboard on my bed or I would sit up on my chair for long periods of time doing work, sometimes really early into the morning. However I’ve stopped doing this and I’ve been working on a chair or sofa and I’ve quit weightlifting for the last 2 months, but things just seem to be getting worse.

Sitting on a chair in school is fine, and I feel no pain there, it’s only when I get home when the problems occur. Can you give me any information about what I could do to prevent or stop the pain?

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Doctor's response: See a doctor and obtain a diagnosis for upper back pain

Given your young age and the severity of your pain, I suggest you go see your regular doctor, a physiatrist or other spine specialist. A physiatrist is a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) who specializes in a wide variety of non-surgical treatments for the musculoskeletal system, such as physical therapy, medications, massage and interventional medicine (i.e. injections). You need a thorough spine examination with x-rays. You may just have muscular pain due to the poor posture often assumed during long hours of studying.

Until you are seen by a physician, I recommend avoiding those positions/postures that cause the back pain to flare up. You may try Tylenol, low-dose Aleve, or ibuprofen and ice/heat. Seeing a chiropractor may also be beneficial.

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.