If you’ve ever felt stiff and sore in your upper back, you’re not alone. With so many of us hunched over computer keyboards at work (or at home), and a widespread lack of good posture and physical conditioning, upper back pain has reached near epidemic proportions. Fortunately, the Milwaukee Pain Clinic offers treatment for most upper back pain cases.

The Basics on Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain is defined as pain in the region below the cervical spine (neck) and above the lower back area (lumbar spine).  The upper back area is known as the thoracic spine region, and also referred to as the upper back, middle-back or mid-back. The term “thoracic” actually means “pertaining to the chest.”

Upper back pain is much less common than neck pain or lower back pain because the ribcage provides rigidity to the area and makes it less prone to the more common spinal disorders of the lower back (particularly disc herniations). Although it is possible to have a herniated or degenerated disc in the upper back, they only account for a mere 1% of all disc herniations.

The most common causes of back pain are myofascial pain (muscular irritation) and joint dysfunction, although traumatic injury and degenerative disease can also cause upper back pain.

Myofascial Pain – (Muscular Irritation)

The upper back areas most susceptible to irritation are the large muscles and connective tissue that attach the shoulder girdle to the scapula and the back of the thoracic rib cage. The most common culprits are sports injuries and poor posture.

Symptoms of Myofascial Upper Back Pain

  • Soreness
  • Moderate to severe overall pain in chest or upper back area
  • Stinging pain in specific areas of thoracic region
  • Inability to move or even breathe freely without pain

Treatment of Myofascial Upper Back Pain

Joint Dysfunction

When there are problems with the way the ribs connect with the spinal vertebrae in the thoracic region of the spine, it’s known as joint dysfunction. The joints fail to work as they should, stiffening up sometimes to the point of locking up—which causes pain in the upper back area. Usually, physical stress is the cause, but psychological stress can also bring it on.

Symptoms of Joint Dysfunction

  • Muscle spasms
  • Severe pain in specific area of the upper back
  • Achy feeling throughout thoracic region
  • Difficulty reaching or breathing without pain

Treatment of Joint Dysfunction Back Pain

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Massage therapy
  • Exercise/Physical Therapy (stretching/strengthening exercises)
  • Anti-inflammatory medications/injections
  • Prolotherapy
  • Neural Therapy Injections

Other Causes of Upper Back Pain

Although extremely rare in the thoracic region, degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, spondylolistheses (slippage of a vertebra on top of another), and spondylosis (arthritis in the spinal segments) can all cause chronic upper back pain, too. Trauma or other injury is also a cause of upper back pain.

In such cases, surgical intervention is sometimes necessary. When surgery is not called for (or in post-surgery cases), many of the same pain management techniques used by the Milwaukee Pain Clinic are prescribed.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Upper Back Pain—A Milwaukee Pain Clinic Specialty

Dr. Pollack offers a range of proven, non-surgical treatment options for chronic upper back pain, with a focus on Prolotherapy. Also known as proliferation therapy or regenerative injection therapy, it involves the injection of a natural, non-cortisone solution to stimulate the body’s defenses and strengthen the areas affected by pain. After the area is strengthened, patients are taught to use proper biomechanics in order to ensure the stresses that initially caused the problem are not repeated.

To schedule a consultation on your upper back pain, contact our Milwaukee Pain Clinic online now or call 414-453-7780.

See also “Back Pain – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment