How to relieve upper back pain on your own and with PT’s help

People can experience pain in any part of their spine, where the curves are separated into three main segments: cervical, thoracic and lumbar. The thoracic region is the largest one, as it has 12 vertebrae and is referred to as the upper or middle back. The cervical curve is the neck and has seven vertebrae. The lumbar curve refers to the lower back and it’s the smallest curve with just five vertebrae.

Since the thoracic curve takes up half of your spine, it’s normal to feel a twinge in it from time to time. But how do you treat persistent or worsening back pain?

Read on to learn about the commonality of thoracic pain as well as how to relieve upper back pain on your own and with the help of physical therapy.

How common is upper back pain?

Upper back pain can interfere with your ability to carry out your daily responsibilities, such as bending over to clean or even finding a comfortable sleeping position. 

If you’re feeling pain in your upper back, you’re not alone. In fact, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience upper back pain in their lifetime. 

There are a plethora of causes for upper back pain. While some are injuries or everyday wear and tear, others are conditions that will require medical assistance for proper diagnosis.

Potential reasons for upper back pain include: 

  • Poor posture.
  • Muscle overuse.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Pinched nerve.
  • Traumatic injury.

3 ways to relieve upper back pain at home

Upper back pain can be frustrating. But luckily, there are plenty of ways to soothe the ache on your own from the comfort of your home.

Here are three ways to relieve upper back pain on your own:

  • Over-the-counter pain relief — For temporary relief from upper back pain, over-the-counter medication is a go-to treatment option for many people. Doctors will often recommend over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and naproxen to temporarily relieve upper back pain.
  • Heat and cold therapy — Ice packs and heating compresses are both tried-and-true tools for alleviating pain in any part of the body, including the upper back. Start out with an ice pack to numb the area, especially after an injury. You can then alternate it with a heating compress to help stimulate blood flow and speed up the healing process.
  • Balance rest and movement — While resting is important for muscle spasms and injuries, it’s also essential that your body doesn’t stay sedentary for too long. Be sure that you balance rest with movement in order to prevent weakening muscles. Lie down for a few hours and then get your body moving with simple, nontaxing activities like walking.

4 physical therapy treatments for upper back pain

Physical therapy is one of the best treatment options for upper back pain. Physical therapists can not only use manual therapy techniques that are proven to help pain management, but they can also help you increase your back’s strength, flexibility and range of motion.

Here are four physical therapy treatments to relieve upper back pain:

  • Joint mobilization — There are quite a few joints throughout your back, called facet joints. They connect the vertebrae in your spine to help them move smoothly. If there is tight tissue surrounding the muscles and tendons around the joint, you may experience upper back pain. A physical therapist can use their hands to apply amplitude and slow velocity to the affected joint to move it around and loosen the restriction that’s causing pain.
  • Soft tissue mobilization — Just like joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization is a hands-on technique that involves a therapist using massagelike motions on the upper back to feel around for tight or rigid tissue. Then they can break up the tissue to release the tension that’s causing your pain and reduced range of motion.
  • Dry needling — This technique can help with a variety of musculoskeletal problems, including upper back pain. It refers to the use of thin needles that are inserted into the affected area. The needles will stimulate the muscles to release tension and increase mobility. Dry needling can have rapid results, with many patients experiencing immediate pain relief.
  • Exercises — Stretching and strengthening exercises are a great way to not only alleviate your upper back pain, but also reduce the risk of injury or future pain. A physical therapist can walk you through exercises that increase the flexibility of your back muscles as well as strengthen them to improve stability and support.

Border Therapy Services can help you relieve upper back pain 

Even though upper back pain is common, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. There are plenty of ways to relieve upper back pain with self-care treatments, but a physical therapist can help you with your current aches while showing you how to prevent more in the future. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.