8 Causes of Upper Back Pain

What are the causes of upper back pain?

  1. Poor posture
  2. Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise
  3. Your Office Chair
  4. Heavy Bags
  5. Old Mattress
  6. Improper Lifting Technique
  7. Overuse, Accident, or Collision
  8. Serious Conditions Affecting Your Spine
Back pain is one of the common problems that people face at some point in their lives. However, for the majority, this pain isn’t caused by serious health issues. Rather, they are caused by everyday items or lifestyle choices. While it is recommended that you see experts examine your back if the pain is severe and chronic, understanding the more common causes of upper back pain is one of the first steps you can take when seeking a solution to your condition. Read on! 

Poor Posture

Poor posture is the main culprit for upper back pain. Unfortunately for many of us, our lifestyle has become more sedentary as we shifted to a work-from-home setup for the past year. Living this kind of lifestyle can cause many bad habits, and your posture might be suffering from that. You may have noticed that you need to make a conscious effort to straighten your back and neck while sitting at your desk. Routinely sitting in the same spot for long periods can cause us to slouch, and this poor posture can cause structural changes in our neck and back. The muscles in this area can become weak and become unable to hold our spine in the proper neutral alignment.  As our head and shoulders begin to hunch over, more pressure is placed on our upper spine and muscles. This can cause misalignments of the bone and muscle. The imbalances in our upper back are what can cause that dull pain many of us are familiar with. 

Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise Tired employee

Poor diet and lack of exercise can also contribute to your upper back pain. Having a sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, which can put additional stress on your bones and joints. A diet that’s high in all the bad stuff — fat, processed sugars, etc — also means that your body isn’t receiving the right nutrients to create healthy muscles.  On top of having a good diet, having enough exercise is also important for preventing body pains. Exercise is what gives you enough healthy muscles to support all your limbs properly. Without exercise, we lack the right amount of muscle tone to support our upper back and neck. Over time, your muscles become deconditioned to weight and strain and lose the strength needed to hold your body up correctly. 

Your Office Chair

Upper back pain can also be caused by your office chair. Aside from that, any other chair you sit in for extended periods can also be a factor. Pain can set in after sitting down for only an hour. This is especially true if you’re sitting in a chair that isn’t suited for your body dimensions or the tasks you’re performing while you’re sitting down.  Chairs that are ‘ergonomic’ are typically better for your back if you’re working for long periods, but there is no guarantee that they will fully protect against or prevent backaches at all. Even ergonomic office chairs can cause pain if their design doesn’t suit the user. For example, the chair back could be too short, or the armrests too far apart. 

Carrying Heavy Bags Woman hiking with heavy bag

Any time you have to carry the heavy weight of a backpack or shoulder bag, you put pressure on your spine and back muscles. If the pressure is too heavy, it can cause a strain on your neck and upper back muscles. If you’re someone who does this often, then the repeated pressure from carrying heavy bags can end up changing the curve of your spine. If you have pre-existing back pains, the changes in your spine will also exacerbate your back problems. 

Using an Old Mattress

Your mattress could also be a source of your back pains. When considering what mattress to buy, or if you should be replacing your mattress, check if it can give your back uniform support. This means that there should be no air between your back and the mattress when you lie down, and your body should not be sinking into the material either. If your mattress is lumpy, or if the number of pillows you use causes gaps, it is possible that you’ve been sleeping in bad positions for your back.  Most people will be able to sleep comfortably using semi-firm or firm mattresses. Some people may need additional padding for the comfort of their back. Using soft pillow tops or memory foam can help give the right kind of support for your body. With these additions, it can add some extra firmness to your mattress and support the right-back positions while you sleep. 

Improper Lifting Technique

Man carrying boxes

Lifting heavy objects with improper technique can put large amounts of stress on your back and spine. Without the proper technique, your spine will not have the proper form needed to support the added weight with assistance from your back muscles. When it lacks enough support, it can become misaligned.  Lifting these objects above the head, especially when held on one side rather than in the center, can leave your shoulders and upper back muscles unbalanced. When this happens, you’re more susceptible to back injuries. These injuries can cause a long-lasting, dull pain in your upper back. 

Overuse, Accident, or Collision

Putting your muscles through more work than usual, such as doing strenuous chores like moving furniture or repairing a hole in your roof, can lead to the overuse of your back muscles. Overusing your muscles can cause strains and inflammation, which manifests as back pain.  Other than overuse, your back pain could be coming from old and new injuries. Trauma from accidents or sports injuries can cause upper back pain. This pain comes from any injured spinal bones, discs, ligaments, or other soft tissue surrounding your spine. This upper back pain tends to be chronic and can flare up when you’re doing a physically demanding activity. 

Serious Conditions Affecting Your Spine

Spine xray The cause of your upper back pain could be more serious than recent lifestyle choices. Complications related to your spine and back muscle health can cause chronic back pain. Some examples of these conditions are scoliosis, herniated discs, compression fractures, and arthritis.  When your spine is affected by these kinds of serious conditions, it can cause spinal degeneration, compression, and widespread pain and fatigue throughout your body — and your upper and lower back will be the most affected. Through degeneration and compression, your spine can become deformed enough to cause posture changes, and make it painful for you to try to straighten your spine on your own. 

Key Takeaway

If you find yourself experiencing problems with your back, and seeing that one of these causes of upper back pain could be the culprit, it may be time to be seen by an expert.  Chiropractor Philippines is one of the leading back pain treatment providers in the Philippines, and with our expertise, we can aid in easing your upper back pain. Inquire about our treatments today!

Written By: Dr. Benedicto Luz Adorable III

Dr. Ben is the CEO and Founder of Philippine Chiropractic Healthcare Specialist. He has a Doctorate Degree of Chiropractic from Parker College of Chiropractic.

To read more about Dr. Ben, click here.

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