Upper and Mid Back Pain

a woman with her hand on her face

Although neck and lower back pain are more common, millions of people deal with pain in either their upper or middle back every day.  The upper and middle back consists of the region from your neck to the lower back, including the trapezius muscles, the top of the shoulders, and between the shoulder blades.  Although most people tend to think of the trapezius as part of the shoulder, it is actually part of the upper back. 

With the increase in the amount of time people spend in front of computers, upper and mid back pain is becoming more and more common.  This page will help you understand some of the most likely causes of upper and middle back pain, as well as give you tips to help alleviate pain in this area.

Causes of Upper and Mid Back Pain

Poor Posture

The majority of Americans now spend almost their entire work day sitting in front of a computer.  Most studies estimate that we spend between 30 - 60 hours per week at a desk. If we do not maintain good posture during this period, upper and middle back pain is a likely result.  The longer we sit, the more our heads begin to shift forward, which puts excess strain on the upper and middle back. For every inch the head moves forward, it puts an extra 10 pounds of pressure on the spine.  In our clinic, we commonly see people with 2 - 3 inches of forward head carriage, this is a major cause of upper back pain.  

When we are not sitting at a computer, we are likely on our phones or other smart devices.  Most of this time is spent looking down at the devices which contributes even more to forward head posture.  It’s no wonder more people are suffering from upper and mid back pain. For more information on poor posture and its effects, click here.

Purses and Other Bags

Another common cause of upper back pain is carrying a purse or other type of bag.  Although you might think this is just for females, I often see men now carrying bags, especially for their laptop computers.  Purses and bags cause upper back pain for two reasons, first is that people tend to only carry their bag or purse on one shoulder, and never switch shoulders.  This causes muscular imbalances that can lead to upper back pain. Instead, try to use a backpack like bag that can be worn on both shoulders, or at the very least make sure that you are regularly switching the shoulder you carry your bag on.

The other reason carrying bags leads to upper and middle back pain is the sheer weight of the bags we carry.  A recent study found that the average woman’s purse, when filled, weighs over 6 pounds. Imagine carrying a 5 pound weight on your shoulder all day long, it’s not going to feel good, right?  Now, I’m not telling you to not carry a purse, but try to limit what you carry around on a daily basis to only what is absolutely necessary.

Other Medical Conditions

Upper and mid back pain can also be caused by certain medical conditions.  One of the more common conditions is scoliosis. Scoliosis occurs when the spine, especially the thoracic spine or mid back, becomes extremely curved to one side.  Most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed during adolescence and occur idiopathically, meaning there is no known cause. 

The gall bladder can also lead to pain in the mid back, usually between the shoulder blades and more to the right side of the spine.  If your mid back pain is worse after meals, or you are having digestive problems, your gall bladder may be the cause of your problem. If these symptoms persist, you should consult with your general practitioner.   

Treatment Options for Upper and Mid Back Pain

Chiropractic Care

A common cause of pain in the upper and mid back can be misalignments of the thoracic spine.  When these vertebrae become misaligned, they can put pressure on nerves that exit the spine, as well as pull on the muscles that attach to the spine.  Either of these can lead to upper or mid back pain. Chiropractors are trained to find and correct these misalignments. For more information on chiropractic care, click here.

Correct Your Ergonomics

As mentioned above, one of the most common causes of upper and mid back pain is poor posture.  If you have to sit for long periods of time to work, make sure your work station is set up as ergonomically correct as possible. This includes making sure your monitors, keyboard and mouse are positioned correctly. For ergonomic tips, click here.

Do Posture Exercises

Even if you have your work space set up ergonomically, there is a good chance that you will still have issues with your posture if you sit for long periods.  To improve posture, you must stretch your chest and the muscles in the front of the neck, in addition to strengthening the muscles in the upper back and back of the neck.  Click here for posture exercises.

Ready to free of upper and mid back pain?  Call or click here to schedule an appointment now!