Issues In Your Tissues

Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

Issues In Your Tissues

Do You Know The Most Common Causes of Upper Back Pain?

Many people suffer from upper back pain.
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In this day and age, people are suffering at alarming levels from pain of all sorts. Today’s modern lifestyles have brought about many back related problems. Chief among them is upper back pain near the neck between the shoulder blades.

Causes Of Upper Back Pain

There are many reasons for upper back pain. When you view these causes with the right perspective; you will realize that individually, as well as when combined or in conjunction with another cause; these all point to imbalance.

Expected Causes

There are a number of typical and unsurprising causes of upper back pain that I choose not to dwell on because it goes without saying that these situations can cause pain in the upper back. Here is the short list.

  • Scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis – (AS) a type of arthritis that can cause pain, stiffness, and inflammation. When you have this condition, the vertebrae in your spine from your neck to your lower back can fuse together.
  • Osteoarthritis – the cartilage that cushions the small facet joints in the spine breaks down.
  • Traumatic injury
    • Car accidents
    • Slip and fall accidents
    • Trip and fall accidents
    • Work-related accidents
  • Improper Lifting Techniques
  • Vertebral Fracture
  • Herniated or Bulging Discs/Pinched Nerve – pressure on the spinal nerves; difficulty controlling urination; weakness or loss of control in the legs; can cause numbness and pain in the extremities.

All of these have an element or degree of the main problem that is the focus of this article. That is muscle strain.

Muscle Strain

When upper back pain is the result of muscle strain; problems can range from Muscle Deconditioning to Postural Problems.

Muscle Preconditioning

Prior to any muscular incident or injury occurring, there is a precondition of the muscles. The precondition can greatly influence the amount of damage or injury that occurs in any impact situation.

The precondition can adversely affect a subsequent injury. If any conditioning of the muscles are needed, it will radically affect the level of pain, disability and functionality of the muscles.

Muscle Deconditioning

People who are predominantly sedentary, like IT professionals, writers and bloggers or anyone at a stationary desk job; truck drivers, gamers and the like run the risk of muscle deconditioning. This deconditioning syndrome happens from something as simple as sitting at a desk for too long with incorrect posture.

Slouching in a chair over a desk may result in a loss of strength in the muscles. Maintaining a position of incorrect posture for too long may cause a loss of strength, which can lead to a weakening of the muscles and pain as a result of muscle strains or irritation.

This weakening happens because of the extra pressure from gravity and the body itself. This extra pressure stresses the neck, discs, ligaments and spine as a result of incorrect posture.

Conditioning

Given sufficient time, this pressure can manifest into other complications through this erroneous conditioning. This causes the muscular support of the skeletal structure to become imbalanced due to continual overcontraction or excessive overstretching of the imbalanced muscles.

The muscles affected by poor posture and the resulting inhibited circulation can result in pain as well as other complications. The muscles between the shoulders in the upper back, that are most affected by stress and poor posture; are the Rhomboids, Levators and Trapezoids. When stressed, these muscles always cause upper back pain.

RSI

What is RSI? RSI used to be termed most frequently as RMI (repetitive motion injury). Now the terminology is RSI (repetitive strain injury). This type of injury is prevalent in this day and age due, in large part to technology and work-related repetitious tasks.

Overuse – RSI can be a cause of:

  • Muscle Strain
  • Tightness
  • Irritation

Sometimes RSI occurs because of too little exercise, coupled with the overuse of certain sets of muscles and a lot of sitting. On the other hand, upper back pain also happens from using muscles frequently or incorrectly. This is a frequent cause of upper back pain due to the weakening of muscles over time and pain in the area from strains or irritation.

Furthermore, too much exercise done incorrectly; incorrect load bearing activities, and incorrect stance can all result in upper back pain or other spinal issues.

Reconditioning

Inattentive people can decondition their muscles over time by not using them correctly. However, the reverse is also true. People, who are more attentive and aware of their bodies; recondition their muscles over time to be stronger or more enduring through exercises and weight training.

The muscles can be conditioned to be stronger and more durable in most cases. Correcting posture while sitting is where this reconditioning starts. It includes taking regular breaks to move around and stretch. This will ease stress and reduce the likelihood of upper back pain.

The use of a standing desk may be something to consider, and this coupled with exercises may improve strength in the back. Anyone suffering from chronic upper back pain due to deconditioning, or any type of muscular strain would benefit by seeking a therapeutic manual body-worker (designated – massage therapist).

They can assist in releasing restricted muscle tissues, and pain, and help you with stretching and help you to manage the pain until you learn for yourself how to manage the condition. This may require making significant changes in your lifestyle or habits.

Myofascial Pain

releasing upper back pain
Licensed body-workers can release Myofascial upper back pain.

This is definitely a pain condition that a licensed body-worker can assist with. Fascia is a thin layer of tissue that wraps around every muscle fiber, and then the muscle as a whole. It is a sheath that is found lining every part of the body and is wrapped around every organ.

A body-worker can assist you in releasing this fascia, which is similar to the thin clear film you find on chicken when you are cleaning it. In rare cases, Myofascial pain can be caused by other problems like gallbladder disease, cancer or an infection. If the cause is unrelated to these, stretching and regular visits to a licensed body-worker can reduce restrictions.

Heart attack

This was the one that caught me off guard a bit as I was researching information for this article. The Meridian System Map indicates that the electrical grid line for the heart is originating in the left pinkie finger. It travels from there up the back of that arm, into the shoulders and neck.

Pain anywhere along this track can be a signal; a message from the body about the heart. What I didn’t know is that researchers have found that women do not necessarily have chest pain as a warning sign like men predominantly do. They aren’t sure what the warning signs are for women, but they clearly think that upper back pain may be one of them.

Personally, I believe that women either don’t acknowledge it or simply refuse to report it. They are too busy being everything to everyone and taking care of everything, but themselves.

My Experience With Chest Pain

Then again, some women may be like me. Have I had chest pain? Yes, it has occasionally occurred, but it did not feel like it was deep in pain. I expect that that type of pain would be felt on a deeper level. What I experienced was more surface based, which is why I believe that it was an issue of restricted Intercostal muscles between my ribs that caused it.

However, as a disclaimer, let me state that I am not a doctor. I am an intuitive and aspiring metaphysician. I am licensed as a body-worker under a massage therapy license. Don’t take my choice in addressing this as gospel.

If you do not know or have questions, do some research and seek the individual you utilize for health or holistic advice or care. This is my perspective on the pain I had, and it will be different for everyone. I viewed the pain in this way because I have experience in successfully treating myself and my patients with back pain in this manner previously.

Kyphosis

People with rounded shoulders, especially if they are Kyphotic, would have more contraction in the chest. Posture problems that cause overstretching in the shoulders especially and can bow the back. This will most assuredly lead to an upper back pain problem because the Rhomboids in the shoulder-blades are being pulled too far apart from the vertebrae. Excessive computer use is a common culprit in this problem, as is any functional activity that causes the arms to be reaching forward on a continual basis.

Being that I am on a computer frequently, this is one of the issues that I battle with to reduce muscular manifestations of pain, and to ensure that I stay as pain-free as possible. Whenever I am having this type of back pain, I work on myself, release my ribs and my sternum, and the upper back pain usually goes away. Sometimes there are other areas that I need to attend to and release as well. These are techniques that I intend to be teaching in the near future to help you as well, so stay tuned.

Current Home-based Treatment Methods.

What can you do at home to alleviate the discomfort of upper back pain? There are several options.

  • Use the R.I.C.E method
    • Rest – Take a break; try not to overdo it. Refusing to allow time to rest is always a factor in pain.
    • Ice – or heat can pain, stiffness and swelling.
    • Compression – Laying on the ice pack will compress it into your sore back; a deep tissue or medical massage or bodywork by a licensed therapist will provide relief.
    • Exercise – Normally, the “E” is for Elevation (for an injury); but in this case, light exercise (push-ups will strengthen the area), especially proper stretching for pain based problems is needed. (Stay tuned for that as well)
  • Practice good posture – don’t slump. Use the book on the head method for learning to sit up or stand or walk straight.
  • Reduce stress – this is an issue of attentiveness over your habits and your own life. Remember, if you don’t take proper care of yourself; you are no good to the people who rely on you, or who you care about most, and will not be able to help them when they need you the most.
  • Over-the-counter pain medicines – if necessary. Try not to get accustomed to this, as it becomes an easy out; and you will never make the changes necessary to stop the pain from manifesting.

Meditation

Meditation can help you manage upper back pain as well as other pain related conditions.
Meditation can help you manage upper back pain as well as other pain related conditions.

This is a more important part of self-care because it allows you to stop and quiet yourself. You can deprogram the pain and it’s accompanying fear and reprogram your life, love, gratitude, and happiness. It involves slow, regular breathing and sitting quietly,  usually for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meditation gets you into a state of relaxation that reduces heart rate, slows breathing, and lowers blood pressure, through the practice of focusing attention. The purpose of meditation is to focus on feeling calm and having a clear awareness about life. It teaches you the skill of directing your own path through reprogramming the subconscious mind.

Resources

A Guide to Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is the most common type of spondyloarthritis, mainly affecting the back and neck. Learn about your options for managing any associated pain.

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