Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Treatment Options for Upper Back Pain

When many people think of pain in the back, the lower area of the spine often comes to mind. However, upper back pain that originates between the neck and lower back region can also get in the way of daily activities.

There are many possible upper back pain causes, including injury, poor posture and lifting heavy objects. Sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods of time can also cause discomfort in the upper back, shoulders and neck. The good news is that there are treatment options for upper back pain that can lessen the discomfort and get you back into your regular activities.

Heat and Ice

If your upper back pain is caused by an injury, such as improper lifting or overexertion during a workout, ice and heat can help relieve the inflammation and discomfort. It is best to use ice on the problem area for a few days directly after the injury, switching to moist heat to relax the muscles and provide additional pain relief.

Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time every six hours or so for the first two or three days. Your ice pack can consist of a bag of ice cubes or even a package of frozen peas wrapped in a towel if you don't own an ice pack. Once the ice has done its job, switch to heat with a hot pack wrapped in a towel to prevent burning the skin.


In many cases, upper back pain can be effectively treated with over the counter pain relievers, especially when combined with ice and heat therapy. An anti-inflammatory agent may be the best choice, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. Talk to your doctor about which medication might be the best choice for you, since these substances are not safe for everyone.

You can use medication for a day or two, following the dosing instructions on the package. If over the counter medications do not provide adequate relief for you upper back pain, you can talk to your doctor about prescription options that can be used over the short term.


Once the initial injury is healed, exercises can strengthen the muscles in the back to prevent upper back pain from returning. There are stretching exercises that will keep the surrounding muscles loose and flexible and strength training to condition the muscles so they are less prone to injury.

Your doctor, physical therapist or a personal trainer can help you determine the best workout program to treat upper back pain and keep it from returning. It is important to stick with the program even after the pain is gone, to keep the area conditioned and strong so it does not become injured again.

Upper back pain can be an uncomfortable condition that prevents you from enjoying life to the fullest. If upper back pain has got you down, talk to your doctor about treatment options available.

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