- Muscle deconditioning and poor posture
People can condition their muscles over time to be stronger or more enduring through exercises and weight training. The reverse is also true. Humans may decondition their muscles over time by not using them correctly. In some muscles, including back muscles, deconditioning is as easy as sitting at a desk with incorrect posture for too long. A person may do this while at work.
2. Muscle overuse
Overusing back muscles is another common cause of upper back pain. This typically occurs due to repeating the same motions over time. This can be a cause of:
- muscle strain
The classic example of how this occurs is a pitcher in baseball, who does a similar motion every time they pitch, which can often take a toll on their shoulder.
Other repetitive activities may cause similar pain. Someone who has to make the same motion all day, or lifts things above their head throughout the day, for example, may start to experience muscle irritation, tightness, or strain. This could turn into chronic pain if they ignore these signs.
3. Traumatic injury
A traumatic injury can also lead to back pain. This may be the result of situations that include:
- car accidents
- slipping and falling
- work-related accidents
- lifting incorrectly
- working out too hard
The injury is sometimes obvious, and pain appears just after the incident. At other times, the pain may not develop until later or the next day. Traumatic injuries can be severe, and issues from injuries, for example, fractured vertebrae, put a person at risk of lasting complications, including chronic pain, nerve damage, and paralysis.
A doctor should look at all potential back injuries as it is vital that they heal properly to avoid long-term pain. A doctor may refer the person to a physiologist or physical therapist to help muscle injuries heal properly. Severe injuries may require surgery.
4. Herniated disc
Herniated discs are more common in the lower back but may sometimes happen in the upper back too. Discs are the soft, rubbery cushions between each vertebra. Herniated discs occur when a piece of this cushion pokes through and puts pressure on the spine.
Even a small amount of pressure can result in significant pain in the middle of the back, as well as other symptoms, including numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. Most people do not need surgery for herniated discs and will recover with rest or by taking anti-inflammatory medications.
4. Spinal infection
Rarely, an infection may be the cause of upper back pain. A spinal epidural abscess is a collection of germs and pus that form between the spinal cord and bones of the spine. The abscess can grow and swell, leading to pain. Early diagnosis is critical, and doctors will treat a spinal abscess quickly to avoid serious complications.
Antibiotics may help, and surgery may be necessary to clear the abscess and reduce the risk of complications. A study posted to BioMed Research International notes that mortality can vary from 2 to 25 percentTrusted Source in people with spinal epidural abscess, typically, because it may take too long to diagnose their condition.