When we discuss back pain, we may go high or go low. Neck and low back pain are often addressed because they are common complaints. However, we don’t want to miss the space in between. Upper back pain may localize anywhere from the neck to the area between the shoulders. For several reasons, this type of back pain can be a challenge for patients and their doctors. While it is essential to address any kind of back pain with appropriate medical care if it has existed for more than a few weeks, there may also be ways to improve comfort as well as spinal function.
Focus on Strength
Spinal strength comes from the spinal column itself and also from the muscles that support vertebrae. With that in mind, you may want to focus some time each day on strengthening the musculature around the spine. Strengthening certain muscle groups may keep the spine in optimal alignment and has also been shown to decrease the inflammation that often contributes to pain. Strength training is not something to take on without assistance. Some patients gain the most benefit from working with a physical therapist on specific strengthening exercises.
Focus on Posture
The position in which we routinely keep the body directly affects how we feel. For example, doctors have noticed a sharp increase in shoulder and neck pain complaints in the years since the development of smartphones and hand-held gaming devices. The head-forward posture that is common with cellphone and game use pulls on shoulder and neck muscles. The weight of the head can also pull the spine out of alignment. Therefore, focusing on a head-up posture is an excellent way to decrease upper back pain.
Focus on Flexibility
Stretching is an advantageous practice whether it is something you build into your fitness routine or something you do before getting out of bed each day. Stretching isn’t just about lengthening specific muscles. When we stretch, we are also improving circulation through the muscles of the back (and other parts of the body). Circulating blood carries oxygen to muscles and organs, which aids in repair and regeneration. Upper back stretches are easy to find and perform, just take care to keep it gentle.