When you suffer from chronic pain, you want to find lasting relief. Certain exercises or medications may give you temporary respite, but then you still wake up in the middle of the night with an ache in your upper back or shoulders. You can’t find a comfortable position to sleep in, and you can’t find a comfortable way to sit either.
Since you can’t sleep, you lack the focus to perform well at work, and since you can’t sit comfortably, your pain further compromises your productivity. You don’t want this to be your life, so you’ve come to the internet looking for answers to your chronic pain.
You could have constant upper back or shoulder pain for a number of reasons. Below, we’ve given you a guide to common causes and solutions for your aches and discomfort.
Causes of Upper Back and Shoulder Pain
You’ll often experience pain in these two areas at once because all their muscles, tendons, and bones connect together. If you experience pain in these areas, it could happen for a number of reasons.
- Exercising incorrectly. This could put strain on your muscles. You may experience pain after repetitive exercises or after you lift something too heavy for you.
- Not getting enough exercise. This weakens your back and shoulder muscles, causing them to move unnaturally and strain.
- Being overweight. This also weakens and put strain on your muscles.
- Sitting for too long. Your body needs to move to maintain its strength. Prolonged periods of sitting could make your muscles start to atrophy.
- Having incorrect posture. This forces your back and shoulder muscles to move incorrectly and strengthen in unnatural ways, which could strain them.
- Getting hit. This could damage your back and shoulder muscles.
- Bone fracture. This will cause intense pain and swelling.
- Frozen shoulder. This occurs when the connective tissue around your shoulder joint thickens, causing stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. It often occurs after medical procedures involving your arm or back. It will limit your mobility.
- Herniated disc. If one of the disc in your spine bulges or ruptures, you will feel pain and pressure. Though this condition occurs more in the lower back, it can happen in the upper back as well.
- Osteoarthritis. This occurs when the cartilage in your joints breaks down. The bones will grate together and cause pain.
- Rotator cuff injury. You may experience this injury after exercising or lifting something heavy. The strain can tear or bruise the muscles and tendons in your shoulder.
- Scoliosis or kyphosis. These conditions refer to oddly shaped spines. In either case, your back and shoulder muscles have to overcompensate for the unnatural shape, and they could strain.
- Separated shoulder. The ligaments in your shoulder may stretch or completely rupture when you have this condition. It leads to pain, weakness, limited movement, swelling, and a bump at the top of your shoulder.
- Spinal stenosis. Your spinal cord travels through a canal in your vertebrae. If that canal narrows due to injury or bone overgrowth, you will experience pain.
- Tendinitis. When you strain your shoulder or back tendons, they may become inflamed or irritated, leading to this condition. You’ll feel a dull ache and mild swelling.
This list only includes some of the causes of upper back and shoulder pain. Many other causes exist. You’ll have to consult with your doctor or physical therapist to determine your cause’s precise cause.
Solutions to Upper Back and Shoulder Pain
You’ve probably tried to rest your back or shoulder so you could heal. However, if you don’t see any changes, you can also try these treatment options:
- Ice and heat the area. Alternating between the two, keep ice or a heating pad on the area for 20-minute intervals. Give your body some time to rest between each part of the heating/icing cycle.
- Practice good posture. Straightening your back and shoulders can often bring you long-term relief. Sit up tall and try to relax. Put your hips, shoulders, and head against the wall and try to straighten your back.
- Exercise to strengthen the area. You should consult with your doctor or physical therapist before attempting this. With some injuries and conditions, exercise could hinder your recovery and increase your pain. However, in other cases, it can strengthen your body and end your pain.
- Sign up for physical therapy. The therapist will find out what went wrong and guide you in exercises to fix it.
- Try massage therapy. This will ease your aches, improve circulation, and stimulate healing.
- Set up an appointment for acupuncture. This will target nerves in your body, acting similarly to massage therapy in that it stimulates healing.
- Consult a chiropractor for chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation. You’ll have to see a chiropractor or neurosurgical and rehabilitation associate for this treatment.
- Ask your doctor if you need surgery. Sometimes only surgery can relieve your pain.
Experiment with some of these treatments to see if they work for you. If they don’t, consult with your doctor or rehabilitation expert.