Tips For How To Relieve Upper Back Pain


Upper back pain can be a debilitating condition that negatively impacts your day-to-day activities and overall quality of life. No matter the root source of this discomfort, learning how to relieve upper back pain is of vital importance to get back to feeling your best. Fortunately, there are numerous lifestyle changes and at-home remedies that may help with back pain relief naturally.

Today, we’re discussing common sources for this condition, how to relieve upper back pain, and when to seek professional medical help. Continue reading and see how you can get back to a pain-free life.

Causes of Upper Back Pain

Before we explore how to relieve upper back pain, it helps to understand the underlying cause of this condition. Upper back pain differs from lower back pain in its location and potential causes.

While lower back pain is often related to disc problems or sciatica, upper back pain is more commonly associated with muscle strain, poor posture, or injury. Understanding the specific cause of your discomfort can help you find the right treatment to relieve upper back tension and prevent future episodes.

Some of the most common causes of upper back pain are:

  • Poor posture: Slouching or hunching over can strain the muscles and ligaments in your upper back resulting in pain and stiffness. Poor posture can also put excess pressure on your spine.
  • Muscle strain: Overuse of the muscles in this area, like heavy lifting or repetitive motions, may also cause strain or upper back pain. Muscle strain can also result from sudden movements or awkward positions that injure the muscles involved.
  • Injury: Trauma to your upper back from a fall, car accident, or common sports injury, can cause pain and stiffness. Injuries can affect the muscles, ligaments, or bones in the upper back, leading to discomfort and limited range of motion. This makes learning how to recover from a sports injury very important to making a full comeback.
  • Underlying medical conditions: Conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, or herniated discs can also cause upper back pain. These conditions affect the structures of the spine, leading to inflammation, nerve compression, and pain.

How to Relieve Upper Back Pain

Finding ways to relieve upper back pain may take a combination of stretches, exercises, lifestyle changes, and at-home treatments. By identifying the underlying causes of your pain and incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can find relief and prevent future upper back pain experiences.

Three best practices to consider for learning how to relieve upper back pain are:

  1. Stretches and exercises for upper back pain
  2. Lifestyle changes for upper back pain relief
  3. Upper back pain treatments at home

1. Stretches and Exercises for Upper Back Pain

Stretches and exercises can help relieve upper back pain while increasing mobility and flexibility, building strength, and improving posture. Targeted movements can also help release tension in the muscles and reduce stiffness. 

Try these stretches and exercises for upper back pain relief:

  • Upper trapezius stretch: This stretch targets the trapezius muscle, which can become tight and tense from poor posture and stress. To do this simple stretch, tilt your head towards one shoulder until you feel a stretch along the side of your neck and shoulder.
  • Thoracic extension: This exercise helps improve thoracic spine mobility reducing upper back pain and stiffness. Sit on a chair and clasp your hands behind your head then gently arch your upper back over the chair.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze: This exercise helps strengthen the muscles between the shoulder blades to improve your posture and relieve upper back pain. For this exercise, you can sit or stand with your arms by your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold them, then relax them again.

2. Lifestyle Changes For Upper Back Pain Relief

Just like exercises and stretches, lifestyle changes can play a role in how to relieve upper back pain and prevent it from happening again.

One of the key aspects of this is maintaining good posture. Poor posture strains the muscles in your upper back. To improve your posture, practice sitting and standing with your shoulders back, chin tucked, and spine aligned. Avoid slouching or hunching over, especially when sitting for long periods. You should also make sure you’re sitting on chairs with proper support, like a zero gravity recliner or other ergonomic chair option.

Speaking of ergonomics, they also play a significant role to prevent or relieve upper back pain. Make sure your workspace is set up ergonomically, with your computer screen at eye level, your chair supporting your lower back, and your keyboard and mouse positioned comfortably. This helps stop subconscious hunching over, reducing strain on your upper back muscles and preventing pain.

Other daily habits can also impact your upper back health. Avoid carrying heavy bags on one shoulder, as this can cause imbalances and strain. Instead, use a backpack or distribute the weight evenly. Additionally, take regular breaks from sitting or standing in the same position for too long. Stretching and moving around can help prevent stiffness and relieve tension in your upper back muscles.

3. Upper Back Pain Treatments at Home

Several at-home treatments can help with how to relieve upper back pain, too. Treating upper back pain at home can be effective in alleviating discomfort and enhancing how the body heals itself. With the right tools and techniques, you’ll give your body all the support it may need to relieve upper back pain and keep it from coming back.

Some ideas for how to relieve upper back pain at home naturally are:

  • Heat and cold therapy: Interchangeably applying a heating pad (or using a heated zero gravity chair) and ice pack to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb the area for temporary pain relief. In addition to feeling soothing and relaxing, heat therapy applications can also help relax tight muscles and improve blood flow to the area, which facilitates faster bodily healing.
  • Massage: Massaging the upper back can help relax tight muscles and improve blood flow to the affected area, reducing pain and promoting healing. Popular choices include using a foam roller or combining tools like a zero gravity chair with massage features to enhance the overall experience and deepen your relaxation while you recover.
  • Zero gravity chairs: As one of the most versatile tools for how to relieve upper back pain, zero gravity chairs are immensely popular. Using a zero gravity chair for back pain is achieved through the zero gravity position. In this position, the legs are elevated above the heart level, reducing excess pressure on your spine and increasing blood circulation.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress and tension in your muscles. These techniques can also help improve mental health, providing a holistic approach to self-care.
  • Posture correctors: Using posture correctors or braces can help improve your posture and reduce strain on your upper back muscles. These devices are designed to provide support and help you maintain spinal alignment throughout your day.

Seeing a Doctor to Relieve Upper Back Pain

While many cases of upper back pain can be effectively managed at home, it's important to consult your doctor before beginning any new health routine. This is especially important if you have underlying health conditions or if the pain is severe or persistent. In some cases, professional medical intervention may be necessary to relieve upper back pain and address the underlying cause.

See your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe or persistent upper back pain that does not improve with home treatment.
  • Pain that radiates down your arm or into your chest.
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain along with upper back pain.
  • A recent injury to your back.
  • Pain that is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, chills, or unexplained weight loss.

These could all be signs of a more severe underlying cause that can only be properly diagnosed by a medical professional.

Learning how to relieve upper back pain is most effective when you understand the causes and then take the appropriate steps to alleviate the pain. Doing targeted stretches and exercises, making lifestyle changes, and using at-home treatments may all help relieve upper back pain naturally and improve your overall quality of life.

Disclaimer: This content is not medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare professional when considering implementing changes to your health or workout routines to ensure it’s compatible with your needs.