Could Your Upper Back Pain Actually be a Neck Problem?

With most of us working from home, it’s common for many newer folks who come to my practice to mention they are experiencing upper back pain.

The upper back is the area from the base of the neck (top of the shoulders) down between the shoulder blades. It’s a sensitive area, and when it flares up, a person may experience anything from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing, burning pain that’s made worse with breathing. Pain in this area of the spine can be so intense that some people have trouble working and even normal activities of daily living.

What if I told you that upper back pain may not actually be an upper back problem? Here’s what I mean: the upper back may be the pain generator, but it most likely isn’t the CAUSE of the pain. It has to do with the biomechanics of the spine and how the upper back supports the neck and head above it.

In a normal spine, when looking at it from the side, the head should be balanced over the shoulders and hips, you can see that in this diagram of NORMAL STRUCTURE:

Normal Structure
Normal Spinal Structure

This position is very important, since it keeps the head centered over the body. When the head and neck are in this position, the thoracic spine is in the proper position to support the neck above it. The problem arises when the head and neck translate or displace forward. When this happens, a person has a syndrome called ANTERIOR HEAD SYNDROME. The underlying structure of the neck is shifted, and as a result, the head translates forward. When the head translates forward, this shifting of weight will add a great deal of stress, pressure, and tension to the muscles, joints, ligaments, discs, nerves, and vertebre of the upper back.

Think of it this way: if you held a 10 lb weight against your chest with both hands you could probably hold it there for five or ten minutes. But, if you held the same 10lb weight out in front of you with your arms extended, it would be much more difficult. You would probably start to tire in your arms and shoulders. The weight didn’t change, but the distance of the weight away from the center of your body did.

Aside from an injury, the upper back (thoracic spine) is kind of the monkey in the middle between the neck and lower back. This area usually compensates to structural displacements in the neck, which causes the common upper back pain that so many folks experience. Then with poor office ergonomics, staring down at your tablet or phone or just slouching on the couch reading a book will further complicate the underlying condition.

Come to Pivotal Chiropractic in Ann Arbor for a Chiropractor Who Puts You First!

If you’re looking for back pain relief, it’s time to see the chiropractor!
If you have upper back pain, schedule a complimentary consultation, where a conversation is never a commitment, and contact us at 734-221-0362.

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