7 causes of upper and middle back pain

One of the joys of aging is getting to experience countless memories. We watch as the world around us changes and evolves, but that happens within us as well. Some of those changes include new aches and pains in the back, in places we never thought possible.

Muscle and Joint

Dr. Owen Wiseman, ND

27 July 2021

What are some of the causes of upper back or middle back pain ?

Back pain is characterized as a dull ache, shooting or piercing pain, or a burning sensation that most commonly originates from muscles, vertebrae or joints of the back. Please find below common causes and risk factors to upper back pain and middle back pain:

  1. Overuse injuries. While common in careers and jobs that see workers repeating the same motion, there are ways to maintain the tissue. Workers should think of that shift like a bit of a workout, so stretching before and after the shift may help abate some of the symptoms. This is especially important if changing gears from a relatively sedentary lifestyle to one of high intensity repetitive motions. Arnica montana topicals like Absolüt Arnica contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce pain and irritation when applied.
  2. Poor posture. One of the modern ailments of our time is referred to as 'text neck' as we perform stooped over various devices. The chronic change in upper spine and neck anatomy might lend itself to headaches, neck pain and shoulder pain amongst other symptoms.
    One study published in 2018 established that almost 35% of smartphones users have the unofficial condition. To avoid poor posture and excessive slouching, one of the simpler approaches is elevating your screen to eye level. This reduces the strain on your neck and promotes upright posture. While there are products that achieve exactly this, simply place some books under the laptop to elevate it to achieve the same effect.
  3. Osteoarthritis. This degenerative condition may lead to wearing out of the tissues surrounding spinal joints and vertebrae. While it typically impacts the lower back, any of the vertebrae can wear thin. Products like Joint Pain Relief which contains extract of Devil's Claw, a potent anti-inflammatory agent, can help with symptom relief. Including anti-inflammatory foods and limiting pro-inflammatory foods in your diet can support collagen synthesis and reduce pain.
    Those who eat a standard North American diet are almost twice as likely to become frail with osteoarthritis as those eating primarily Mediterranean style. While most omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish like salmon and mackerel, vegan options like VeganOmega3 are an alternate option to fit your plant-based lifestyle.
  4. Myofascial pain. Myo stands for muscle while the fascia is a thin layer that covers and wraps the muscle fibres. This form of pain is often chronic and can be diffuse or localized to certain areas of the body used more than others. If you perform certain motions on a regular basis or injure yourself, the fascia of the upper back and middle back may become inflamed. In a recent clinical trial, patients taking omega-3 fatty acids for 4 weeks experienced reduced muscle soreness following exercise.
  5. Sleep position. At some point, you have probably heard that we spend approximately 1/3 of our lives asleep. This is why it becomes even more important to sleep in a position that supports your overall health and reduces strain on the upper and middle back. Sleeping on your back can distribute your body weight across the length of the spine, but can also place pressure on the throat, worsening sleep apnea in some instances. Avoid sleeping on your stomach as well as that can place pressure on the neck and worsen upper or middle back pain.

    For biological and transgender females on hormone therapy, there are other reasons to consider that may not be given the attention they deserve.

  6. Something as mundane as an ill-fitting bra can alter the way the breasts lay and therefore impact your posture. There are ripple effects however with 17% of women in one clinical trial less likely to engage in physical activity in part because, "I can't find the right sports bra" or "I am embarrassed by excessive breast movement". Being properly fitted for a bra, by a retail attendant or virtual fitting technology, can help maintain proper form during exercise and reduce the risk of injury or back pain.
  7. It doesn't end there either as larger breast size, whether from birth or due to a current pregnancy, can wreak havoc on posture. Some researchers estimate that 50 to 90% of pregnant women will experience low back pain, but the rates fall to 42% for upper back pain in combination with other areas in one study. Only 3% of women reported upper back pain on its own in the same study.

Physical therapy – try this yoga pose!

Many of those suffering from any form of back pain will tout yoga as the panacea that helped them take back control of their life. One pose to consider is cobra which engages your erector spinae muscles. They are involved in posture and run the length of your back from the tail bone all the way up to the back of the skull. With much of our time spent stooped over a phone or computer, cobra helps extend and strengthen the muscles to hold us upright.
For more information, check out our article 7 easy ways to relieve lower back pain or When pain is keeping you up at night for more tips to understand joint pain and ways to support it with exercise and diet.

This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.













Alfred Vogel's guide to leading a healthy and happy life

Nature is just about the best thing we’ve got!

Watch the video


Become a member, discover our offers in preview, follow our news and enjoy a 10% discount on your 1st order!