The upper back is remarkably resistant to injury and pain. When upper back pain occurs, it is typically due to long-term poor posture or an injury that overpowers the thoracic spine’s sturdiness.

What spinal conditions cause chronic upper back pain?

Although upper back pain is most likely due to poor posture or an injury, the pain can also be due to problems in the thoracic spine. Spine-related causes include:

  • Compression Fracture
  • Thoracic Herniated Disc
  • Arthritis

Additional causes include fibromyalgia and spinal deformity.

What symptoms are associated with upper back pain?

  • Sharp pain. This pain is typically described as excruciating, knife-like, or burning.
  • General discomfort. An achy or throbbing pain may be felt in part of the upper back and could spread into a nearby area.
  • Stiffness. If either sharp pain or general soreness becomes severe, it can contribute to reduced mobility of the upper back’s muscles, ligaments, and/or joints.
  • Radiating pain. This pain can travel along a nerve from the thoracic spine and can potentially go into the arm, chest, stomach, or further down the body.
  • Thoracic radiculopathy. Pins-and-needles tingling, numbness, or weakness radiating from the thoracic spine can feel like the shape of a band running along one of the ribs.

How is upper back pain treated?

Nonsurgical Treatments

A doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following nonsurgical or self-care options:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Ice or Heat Therapy
  • Epidural Steroid Injections
  • Medication
  • Manual Manipulation

Surgical Treatments

It is rare for upper back pain to be treated with surgery. Surgery may be indicated if the health of the spinal cord is at risk, a severe spinal deformity has developed, or the pain cannot be managed.

  • Vertebral Augmentation
  • Spinal Decompression

This information is not intended or implied as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images or other information provided is intended for general information purposes only. Always consult with your physician for diagnosis or treatment.

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