8 Common Reasons Why Your Upper Back Hurts and How To Treat Them

8 Common Reasons Why Your Upper Back Hurts and How To Treat Them

Upper back pain is a common issue that can cause discomfort and lead to more severe health issues if left untreated.

Knowing the most common causes of upper back pain can help you identify when to consult a doctor or physical therapist.

Additionally, you can do some simple treatments on your own to lessen the severity of your symptoms.

Ways To Relive Upper Back Pain

There are several ways to help relieve the severe upper back pain that you may be experiencing.

1. Strengthening Exercises: Performing strengthening exercises for the muscles in your back can help reduce tightness and relieve chronic pain.

2. Posture Correction: Improving your posture can take the strain off your muscles and help improve acute upper back pain.

3. Heat/Cold Therapy: Alternating between hot and cold packs can help reduce inflammation and lessen painful sensations in the back.

👉 For heat therapy, you can try this Comfier Heating Pad for back pain relief.👈

4. Yoga: Practicing yoga poses designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your upper back can be beneficial for pain relief.

5. Massage Therapy: Professional massages can relax tight muscles and reduce the severity of your pain.

Upper Back Pain: Causes and Treatments 

According to a study published in Occupational Medicine, 1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women may experience upper back discomfort, although it is less common than lower back pain or neck pain.

Doctors call upper back pain thoracic spine pain or TSP. Common causes include the following:

1. Deconditioning Of The Muscles And Poor Posture

People can develop their muscles through workouts and weight training to become stronger or more resilient.

The opposite is also accurate. By improperly exercising their muscles, people can gradually lose muscle mass.

Deconditioning in some muscles, such as the back muscles, can occur as quickly as sitting at a desk with poor posture for an extended period. This could be done while working.

2. Muscle Overuse

Another common cause of upper back discomfort is overuse of the back muscles. This frequently happens as a result of long-term repetition of the same actions. This could lead to the following:

  • Muscle strain
  • Tightness
  • Chest pain
  • Irritation

3. Traumatic Injury

Traumatic injuries, such as those sustained in a car accident or during contact sports, can cause pain and discomfort in the upper back.

A traumatic injury can also lead to chronic upper back pain. This could be the result of situations such as:

  • Car accidents
  • Stumbling and falling
  • Work-related accidents
  • Incorrect lifting
  • Working out too hard

4. Disc Herniation

Disc herniation occurs when the intervertebral discs that cushion and protect the vertebrae in your spine become weakened due to wear and tear. The soft, interior material may then be forced outward, causing a hernia or bulging disc that can compress nearby nerves, leading to upper back pain.

5. Spinal Infection

An infection can occasionally cause upper back pain. A spinal epidural abscess is a collection of bacteria and pus that forms between the spinal cord and the spine’s bones.

6. Myofascial pain

Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder. It is caused by inflammation of the fascia, or connective tissue in muscles, which can lead to extreme upper back pain.

An injury may cause myofascial pain syndrome to the back muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

Myofascial pain can develop due to an injury or overuse, but chronic myofascial pain can last for years after the initial injury.

It is still unknown why some people experience myofascial pain. Doctors may recommend physical therapy and myofascial release therapy to help a person work the fascia and relieve pain.

7. Scoliosis 

Another possible cause of upper back pain is scoliosis—a condition with an abnormal spine curvature.

Scoliosis most commonly affects adolescents but can occur at any age. Scoliosis can lead to chronic lower and upper back pain if left untreated, so it is important to get evaluated by a doctor if you suspect that you have this condition.

Treatment for scoliosis typically consists of physical therapy exercises designed to strengthen the core muscles, which support the spine, and bracing if necessary in more severe cases.

In cases where the curvature has progressed significantly, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct spinal alignment.  

8. Arthritis 

Arthritis can also cause upper back pain due to inflammation in the joints between vertebrae in the spine leading to stiffness and soreness throughout the affected areas.

Suppose arthritis is suspected as being the source of your discomfort. Getting assessed by a doctor can help reduce any inflammation associated with arthritis by prescribing medication or making lifestyle changes, as well as other treatments, such as physical therapy exercises specifically geared towards strengthening the muscles around arthritis-affected joints. 

Back Structure

The back is structurally complex, meaning pain can arise from various locations and issues.

The spine is divided into three main sections that stretch from the skull to the tailbone, each comprising a stack of vertebrae.

The cervical spine is the top section that runs along the back of the neck. The lumbar spine is the lower section of the spine that connects the spinal column to the tailbone.

A set of 12 vertebrae connects the cervical and lumbar spines in the middle of the spinal column. The thoracic spine is made up of these vertebrae. The upper back includes most of the thoracic spine and the lower portion of the cervical spine.


Various conditions, including muscle overuse, traumatic injury, disc herniation, spinal infection, and scoliosis, can cause upper back pain.

Talking to your doctor if you are experiencing upper back pain is essential to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Treatment may include lifestyle changes such as exercise modifications or physical therapy, medications to reduce inflammation or pain, or in more severe cases, surgery.

Understanding the potential causes of upper back pain and taking preventive measures can help avoid a chronic condition affecting your quality of life. 

Chenie Taton