The upper back is a part of the spine with 12 segments or levels of vertebrae and discs. This part of the spine is referred to as the thoracic spine. It begins at the base of the neck and extends down just below the bottom of the ribcage. Usually, we hear about people experiencing pain in the neck or lower back. Though less common than these two, upper back pain still affects nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men. Here, we look at a few of the reasons for pain in the upper back.
- Infrequent or incorrect use of muscles. Our muscles are conditioned even when we don’t try. The misuse of muscles is actually referred to as deconditioning. This is an easy thing to do, especially in the spine, because deconditioning can occur simply by sitting at a desk using poor posture. When you are at work or driving your car, your hands may be outstretched in front of you and your shoulders may slouch forward, creating a bend in the upper back that weakens the muscles that support this spinal segment. Slouching not only leads to pain, but it also places stress on certain pairs of vertebrae that could lead to degeneration in the disc between them.
- Too much muscle use. Just like infrequent use, overuse is a common cause of upper back pain. Overuse can lead to irritation, muscle tightness or spasms, a burning sensation, and full-on muscle strain. Moist heat may help improve circulation through tensed muscles, relieving pain. However, if pain recurs or has been chronic for some time, there is a chance that a disc has been damaged or has degraded.
Herniated Discs in the Upper Back
Poor posture, overuse, and traumatic injury are all reasons that a disc in the upper back may wear down, bulge, or herniate. A bulging disc is one that has not torn but whose inner matter is pressing on the outer ring of fibrous material. A herniated disc is so weak that the inner matter is leaking out beyond the fibrous outer shell. Depending on the degree of herniation, the compression that occurs could compress a nearby nerve. This is often called a “pinched nerve.”
Compression can lead to ongoing pain, weakness, tingling or a numb sensation, and other problems. In our Tampa office, patients can find the relief they need from nerve compression without the stress of invasive surgery. Discectomy and neural decompression is a procedure that Dr. Watson performs with laser assistance, resulting in less tissue trauma and faster healing than more complex procedures.
Learn more about how we’re resolving back pain in our patients. Schedule a consultation at (813) 920-3022.