Therapy for Upper Back Pain

The upper back or thoracic spine is the area below the cervical spine and above the lumbar spine.

While it’s most stable part of the spine, there is little range of motion in this region due to the spine’s attachments to the ribs.

Pain in the upper back is typically caused by injury, poor posture, or muscle overuse. Regardless of the cause, it’s best to get upper back pain therapy right away to get relief and prevent symptoms from worsening.


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Causes of Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain is usually a result of soft tissue injuries (sprains or strains) or muscle tension from overuse or poor posture. Common causes of pain in the upper back include:

  • Whiplash or other neck injury
  • Thoracic herniated disc
  • Severe spinal deformity
  • Poor posture
  • Muscle overuse
  • Improper lifting
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Contact sports
  • Compression fractures
  • Carrying too heavy a load
  • Arthritis

Common Symptoms of Upper Back Pain

If you hurt your upper back due to an injury, you might experience:

  • Tightness
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Stiffness
  • Intense pain
  • Headache

If your upper back pain is caused by a sudden misalignment in the bones, nerves, or discs of your thoracic spine, symptoms may also include:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain down the legs
  • Numbness or weakness in your legs
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence

Diagnosing Upper Back Pain

Diagnosis begins with a physical examination and an evaluation of your physical activities and previous injuries, if any. If symptoms persist or if you start experiencing progressive bowel or bladder control problems, your doctor may recommend advanced testing such as MRI or CT scans, bone density tests, and nerve studies.

Traditional Treatments

  • Prescription drugs – Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, opioid pain relievers, or muscle relaxants to ease upper and mid back pain.
  • Injections – Spinal steroid injections can help relieve upper back pain caused by inflamed nerve roots.
  • Surgery – In severe cases, doctors may recommend surgical procedures such as kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty, spinal laminectomy, or microdiscectomy.

Superior Physical Therapy

Unlike traditional treatments that carry potential risks and reportedly work only 45% of the time, our Superior Method offers a safe, painless, and risk-free road to healing. Our treatment options concentrate on finding the root cause of pain to alleviate discomfort and restore strength and function to the upper back.

Full-body Movement Assessment
Successful healing begins with discovering the root cause of the patient’s pain. In most cases, pain in one area is only a symptom of a larger issue. In a full-body movement assessment, the source of the problem is identified by examining the movement of nearby or connected parts. This allows movement to be restored and the body to complete the healing process.

Hands-on Manual Therapy
The Superior Method employs the help of a trained therapist certified in functional manual reaction. The therapist uses their hands to facilitate proper motion, improving areas of restriction. This is similar to deep tissue massage, but it incorporates movement.

Prescriptive Home Exercise Program
The Superior Method aims to educate patients on how the body moves to safely ease pain and restore function. With our smartphone app called Movement RX, we empower patients with the knowledge and tools needed to attain long-term physical freedom. All of the instructions provided by your physician will also be video-recorded and sent directly to your email or mobile device.

Applied Functional Science
This principles-based method is designed to improve how the mind, body, and spirit work together to facilitate complete healing. All Superior Physical Therapy providers are Fellows of Applied Functional Science through the Gray Institute. This organization is led by the reputable physical therapist, Dr. Gary Gray.

Deep Muscle Stimulation
Mechanical vibrations that penetrate deep into the muscle tissue enable tissue regeneration and improve the lactic cycle, which is one of the most common causes of pain. The procedure also helps boost circulation and lymphatic flow to alleviate pain.

Dry Needling
A fast, safe, and virtually pain-free method to reduce pain and address musculoskeletal presentations. In dry needling, trigger points or local contractures are stimulated by monofilament needles.

McKenzie Therapy
The McKenzie Method® of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy® (MDT) is a distinguished and internationally researched method of diagnosis and treatment for spinal and extremity musculoskeletal conditions. Created by New Zealand Physiotherapist Robin McKenzie, this system has been used globally for over 60 years. MDT-certified clinicians assess and treat all types of musculoskeletal disorders including complications in the spine, muscles, tendons, and extremity joints.

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