How do I Choose the Best Method of Upper Back Pain Relief?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Whether it is caused by a sudden injury or a lifetime of poor habits, upper back pain can be annoying or even debilitating. Luckily, there are a number of different methods of upper back pain relief. Choosing the best method of upper back pain relief for you can be a matter of trial and error, and may vary depending on the cause of your pain. Common methods of upper back pain relief include taking painkillers, applying ice or heat, stretching and exercising, modifying the behavior, and, in extreme cases, having surgery.

Many people find that taking painkillers is an effective method of upper back pain relief. You may wish to try taking an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen. If you find that over-the-counter drugs are not strong enough to combat your back pain, your physician may recommend a course of prescription-strength painkillers. It should be noted, however, that if your upper back pain is caused by an underlying condition such as scoliosis or behavior such as poor posture, painkillers will provide only a temporary sense of relief.


You might also find that applying heat or ice can provide upper back pain relief. To reduce inflammation of the muscles in the upper back, try lying on your stomach with an ice pack on the affected area for a period of approximately 15 minutes. If you wish to relax and loosen the affected muscles, try lying on a heating pad for 20 to 30 minutes. Some people find it helpful to alternate ice and heat treatments. As with using painkillers, however, applying heat and ice will provide only temporary relief to those with chronic upper back issues.

Stretching and exercising can be very effective in providing long-term upper back pain relief. This is because proper stretching keeps the muscles flexible, preventing upper back soreness, while regular exercise helps build strength, reducing the risk of strains. You may wish to consult your physician or a physical therapist for a stretching and exercise routine that is custom-designed to address your upper back issues.

If your upper back pain is caused by behavioral factors, such as poor posture or long hours spent working at a computer, you may find that making small changes to your habits can eliminate your discomfort. Try making a consistent effort to stand and sit with your shoulders pushed back and your spine and neck held straight and tall. If you spend long periods of time working at a computer, try repositioning your monitor so it is directly in front of you and its screen falls just below your natural line of vision when looking straight ahead. In addition, attempt to stand up and stretch your back and shoulders for five to ten minutes each hour.

Upper back pain caused by an underlying structural issue, such as a herniated disk or scoliosis, may require surgical treatment. The exact nature of this type of treatment can vary widely, depending on the issue causing your pain. Back surgery can be fairly invasive and may require a significant recovery period. Thus, it is often recommended only after less invasive methods of upper back pain relief have failed.


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