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Upper Back and Shoulder Pain

Upper Back and Shoulder Pain

What is Upper Back and Shoulder Pain?

Upper back pain is pain that occurs between the shoulders, often because of a lack of muscle strength surrounding the shoulder blade and rotator cuff, resulting in poor mechanics of the shoulder and spinal joints.

Rarely, the spinal nerves can become compressed, sending inadequate signals to the upper extremity muscles.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Upper Back and Shoulder Pain?

Pain between the shoulders can happen for many reasons, including:

  • Poor posture which leads to muscle imbalances
  • Picking up something too heavy such as a suitcase, box, child, or even the laundry
  • Hunching over a computer all day
  • Dysfunction occurring elsewhere in the body such as the lower cervical spine, upper thoracic spine, or rotator cuff (often due to poor posture)

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Upper Back and Shoulder Pain?

Signs and symptoms of pain between the shoulders include:

  • A twinge of pain after picking up something heavy that slowly becomes more advanced over time
  • A burning sensation between the shoulders
  • Weakness between the shoulders
  • Pain that worsens at night, after working all day, or all-day activity
  • Arm numbness if the spinal cord is compressed

It’s important to note that anyone who experiences pain between the shoulder blades that has no known reason and doesn’t change with moving positions should seek help from their doctor.

Concerned about symptoms of upper back and shoulder pain? Book a physiotherapy assessment at your local pt Health clinic today.

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How is Upper Back and Shoulder Pain Treated?

Depending on the cause, severity, and length of time you’ve had upper back and shoulder pain, treatment will vary and can include:

  • Resting your back and avoiding aggravating activities for 48 hours
  • Applying heat and cold therapy to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Taking over-the-counter or prescription medication including muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy for Upper Back and Shoulder Pain

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing mobility and function, and preventing recurrence.

The goal of physiotherapy is to return to your pre-injury self.

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem so you can get back to doing the things you love, no matter your age.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:

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Can Upper Back and Shoulder Pain Go Away On Its Own?

Mild pain may go away if you use at-home treatment properly, such as ice and rest. 

However, because many cases of upper back and shoulder pain are due to muscle and postural imbalances, it’s likely the condition will worsen as the spinal nerves become more irritated. 

A physiotherapist can help you strengthen the appropriate muscles for a full recovery. 

Total rehabilitation time typically lasts between four to six weeks. Prognosis is excellent as long as you follow your physiotherapy plan.

Can You Prevent Upper Back and Shoulder Pain?

The best way to prevent upper back and shoulder pain is to practice proper posture. Speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.

Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of developing upper back and shoulder pain include:

  • Exercise regularly, including stretching and strengthening exercises such as yoga or tai chi
  • Use an ergonomic chair at work and home
  • Practice good posture
  • Don’t hunch over your computer
  • Wear orthotics for proper joint alignment
  • Use a properly supportive pillow and mattress
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a non-inflammatory diet (avoid sugar, and processed and refined foods)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Quit smoking

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for a Upper Back and Shoulder Pain Today

Concerned about symptoms of upper back and shoulder pain? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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