Upper and Middle Back Pain: Causes and Treatment

Ever woken up with a stiff back and groaned in pain? Sounds familiar, right? Back pain, especially pain the upper and middle back, is a fairly common condition which can be debilitating. In this article, we will take a look at the causes of upper and middle back pain and the remedies for relief.

Causes of Upper and Middle Back Pain

1. Incorrect posture

We often spend hours slouched in front of the laptop or mobile phones. This is usually the number one cause behind pain in the upper and middle back. When you sit in the same position for hours together, it puts a strain on your spinal cord and the back muscles. Physiotherapists and orthopedics recommend that you should walk around for at least 15 mins every 45 minutes. This ensures that there is mobility and keeps the pain at bay.

2. Wearing incorrect bra

This is a common cause of pain in women who have large and heavy breast. If you are wearing the incorrect size and shape of bra, it exerts additional pressure on your spine. This leads to pain in the back, particularly the upper middle portions. Wearing the correct size of bra ensures that the weight is equally distributed in the body without distressing a particular group of muscles. So choose the right fit and size to prevent the occurrence of these pains.

3. Depression

Depression is often associated with psychosomatic pains. Back pains are a very common occurrence in people who are diagnosed to suffer from clinical depression. Frequent and chronic back pains are also tell-tale signs of stress. Certain studies have demonstrated that depression causes a spike in proteins called cytokines which leads to a heightened experience of pain and inflammation. Secondly, depression itself is a major cause of fatigue which prevents the patients from leading an active lifestyle. This, in turn, puts a stress on the back muscles and causes chronic back pain, muscle strain and other injuries.

4. Being overweight

Maintaining a healthy body weight is extremely essential to keep these pains at bay. If you are overweight or obese, you run a high risk of suffering from back pain. These days, most people lead a sedentary lifestyle which results in people putting on a large amount of weight. This, in turn, puts an additional stress on the spine and leads to severe back pain, particularly in the upper and the middle back. One of the ways to combat this is to lead an active lifestyle and reduce your weight. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis.

5. Lifting heavy objects

While this may appear harmless, it is a major cause behind back pains experienced by people. If any heavyweight is lifted by a person in an incorrect posture, it is bound to lead to chronic pain in the back. While lifting such object, be careful about the correct posture – squatting. Make sure that the body weight is evenly distributed across the body to prevent any injury to the back. If you lift heavy objects in the incorrect posture, it can lead to a stress to the spine and can also injure your spine permanently.

6. Osteoporosis 

If you are suffering from osteoporosis, chances are that your spine is already affected and is brittle. Since the bone density is abysmally low in osteoporosis, slightest stress to the spine can cause a severe backache. Any fall can also result in a spinal fracture which can be a debilitating condition. One of the ways to avoid this condition is to ensure optimum calcium and Vitamin D intake through diet and supplements. This helps in maintaining the optimum bone density which is essential for healthy bones.

7. Incorrect mattress

Yes, even something as seemingly insignificant thing like a mattress can have a huge impact on the aches and pains in your body. If you are sinking into your mattress, you need to replace the same as soon as possible. Such mattresses do not provide adequate support to your spine and result in chronic back pain. Choose memory foam since it is firm and takes the shape of the body.

8. Wearing high heels

This is touted as an urban myth but it is true. The S shape of the spinal cord acts as a shock absorber. When you wear high heels for a long period of time, the spine flattens and there is overuse of the back muscles. This results in pain in the upper and middle back. Therefore, avoid wearing very high heels for more than 4 hours at a stretch. Use in-soles to provide your feet extra cushioning.

9. Carrying a heavy load on your shoulders

Most of us have a habit of carrying around a huge bag on our shoulders. Women are especially guilty of this since women often carry a huge bag full of several things, some of which are not even necessary. Carrying such heavy loads can overtime change the curvature of the spine. This can also lead to pain in the upper and middle back. So make sure that you don’t unnecessarily load up your bag and only carry the bare essentials.

10. Problematic kyphosis

When the spine is viewed from the side, it is supposed to curve outwards. This is commonly knowns as a kyphotic curve. However, in case the spine starts to curve outward a lot, it is a problematic kyphosis. Osteoporosis can lead to problematic kyphosis which can result in upper back pain.

11. Miscellaneous conditions

Several other conditions such as acid reflux, ulcers, and sciatica can also lead to back pain. These conditions are not related to the spinal cord but can nevertheless lead to severe back pain in the upper and middle regions.

Treatment for Upper and Middle Back Pain

1. Physical therapy:

You can consider applying ice packs, heat or ultrasound to the affected area. These act as muscle relaxants and help alleviate the pain to a great extent.  Physical therapy will also involve a lot of exercises which are aimed at improving flexibility in the body. Push-ups and squats are particularly useful in building strength, flexibility and stability in the back.

2. OTC Medication:

If the pain is unbearable, you can consider an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen. While medication will provide instant relief, do not make it a habit to pop pills as it is not a long-term solution to the problem.

3. Injections:

If the pain is too severe and the other measures do not provide any relief, your doctor may consider administering cortisone injections. This is an anti-inflammatory medication which numbs the area around the spinal cord. This helps in decreasing the inflammation, if any, around the nerve roots and decreases the pain to a large extent.

4. Rest:

Adequate rest is also required to heal severe back pain. By choosing the right mattress and pillow, you can make a world of difference to the curvature of your spine and get relief from pain. You can also consider lying down with a pillow underneath your knees to provide extra support to your body.

5. Yoga and other forms of exercises:

If the pain is less severe, you can consider practicing yoga which can help you strengthen your back and also make your body more flexible. Certain poses such as downward dog, child’s pose and locust pose can be particularly helpful. However, make sure to perform these poses under proper guidance so that you don’t suffer from any injuries. Regular exercises such as pelvic tilts and pulling your knee to chest can also help in strengthening your back muscles and provide relief from chronic pain.

There are various home remedies for back pain which you can try as well.


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