7 Ways To Effectively Treat Upper Back Pain

By Dr. Philip Cordova

February 7, 2024


You can treat upper back pain on your own, but some people go about it all wrong. They mistake how they got the pain in the first place, which leads to bad strategies. Upper back (also called dorsalgia) and neck discomfort can seemingly arise without a clear cause, but very often it is related to our bad computer posture. The problem builds up over time and just seems to show up even if you believe you “didn’t do anything” to cause it.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 80% of the U.S. population can experience back pain during their lives. Another study suggests that nearly 60% of Americans may not disclose chronic pain to medical professionals.

Various factors, such as prolonged computer work or extended time at your desk and smartphone use, can contribute to this pain, disrupting your daily life. If you find yourself wondering how to treat upper back pain, the following tips can help.

Take A Break To Treat Upper Back Pain

Change positions regularly, especially if working on a computer or using a phone or tablet. It’s okay to get up, take a walk and get blood flow back into your neck and back. A change of scenery can be a good thing for your mental health as well as your back pain.

Don’t feel like you can’t be productive during this time. You can listen to a recording, take a phone call, go touch base with another co-worker, or get some water. Give yourself the excuse to take regular breaks during your day.

Check Your Desk Posture

While desk ergonomics are a whole additional topic, the easiest thing to check is the height of your monitors. Make sure they are slightly higher than eye-level, which will force you to sit upright. When your screens are lower, you can slouch in bad posture and still feel like you’re aligned well, even if you’re not.

A good chair is helpful, but making sure your screens are high enough will work wonders for your neck and back posture.

treat upper back pain

Exercise To Treat Upper Back Pain

Strengthening your upper and mid back will go a long way in improving your posture and helping you stay upright while sitting at your desk for long periods. Lat pull downs, rowing, and scapula push-ups will strengthen the upper and middle back.

When thinking about doing more exercise to help posture, most patients will just start walking on a treadmill or other activities that don’t help their back at all. Think that your back muscles are too weak and too long and focus on exercises that will shorten and strengthen.

Stretch To Treat Upper Back Pain

Stretching is so good for you for a number of reasons, but stretching to treat upper back pain means stretching the front of the body (chest and front of neck), not stretching your back. Most people will attempt to stretch the very muscles that are already too long.

Yoga is also a great way to treat upper back pain. Whether at home watching videos or in a studio, yoga helps your body work through all ranges of motion and builds both strength and flexibility in the spine. It’s great for beginners as well!

Change Sleeping Position And Check Your Pillow

Avoid stomach sleeping, as it can overextend neck muscles and cause twisting in the upper back. It can also stretch just one side of the neck, which can lead to other posture issues over time. Side sleeping with a good pillow that keeps your neck straight or back sleeping with a good curved support pillow work the best.

If you are a stomach sleeper, I have found it’s nearly impossible for you to make the transition to sleeping on your back. Many patients have been very frustrated trying to make that change, so don’t do it! Going from stomach sleeping to side sleeping is the easiest and most effective change you can make to help your upper back.

Use A Foam Roller To Treat Upper Back Pain

Utilize a foam roller to massage upper back muscles. This is a great way to alleviate tension and improve range of motion in the thoracic spine. You can do this daily to keep your spine healthy and pain-free as part of a maintenance routine to prevent upper back pain.

Chiropractic Care To Treat Upper Back Pain

Chiropractic adjustments realign the spine, reduce tension, and keep your nervous system working well. In our office, we start with a consult, exam, and any necessary x-rays. Those x-rays would include thoracic spine x-rays for someone dealing with upper back pain.

Your chiropractor will recommend additional therapies and home care recommendations that will include specific stretches and exercises.

Understanding how to alleviate upper back pain may require a multifaceted approach, but chiropractic is a great way to treat upper back pain, especially when the other ways to help are offering only temporary relief.

Dr. Philip Cordova

About the author

Dr. Philip Cordova is a chiropractor in Houston, Texas. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and decided to become a chiropractor after hurting his back as a teenager and getting help from chiropractic care. He is speaker on health & posture. Click Here To Read His Full Bio

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