Understanding Common Sources of Upper Back Pain: Joints, Muscles, Discs and Nerves

The human upper back, or thoracic region, serves as a supportive structure for the spine, providing stability and facilitating a range of movements. However, it’s also a common area for discomfort and pain. Understanding the root causes of upper back pain is crucial in managing and alleviating these issues effectively. Among the primary culprits are the joints, muscles, discs, and nerves, each playing a distinctive role in causing discomfort and discomfort in this region.


The joints in the upper back, known as facet joints, allow flexibility and movement in the spine. When these joints become inflamed or damaged due to conditions like arthritis, injury, or overuse, they can trigger significant discomfort. Facet joint syndrome, characterized by stiffness, limited mobility, and localized pain, is often linked to these joint-related issues.


The muscles surrounding the upper back play a pivotal role in supporting the spine and facilitating movement. Strain or tension in these muscles, often caused by poor posture, sudden exertion, or repetitive movements, can lead to discomfort and pain. Conditions such as myofascial pain syndrome or muscular irritation can manifest as persistent, aching pain in the upper back muscles.


Intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in the spine. In the upper back, disc-related issues like herniation or degeneration can lead to pain. Herniated discs occur when the outer portion of a disc ruptures, causing the inner gel-like material to press on nearby nerves, leading to localized pain, numbness, or tingling sensations in the upper back.


Nerve-related upper back pain often results from conditions like thoracic herniated discs or spinal stenosis, where nerves become compressed or irritated. This compression can cause radiating pain, weakness, or numbness that may extend to the arms, chest, or abdomen, depending on the affected nerve roots.

Diagnosis and Management:

The first step is a detailed exam with one of our chiropractors. Identifying the specific cause of upper back pain typically involves a combination of physical examinations, imaging tests (like X-rays or MRIs), and a detailed medical history. After a thorough history and exam, your chiropractor will explain to you what your diagnosis is and what treatment will be best to resolve your problem. Treatment plans often include a mix of conservative measures such as therapeutic exercises, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture and massage therapy. In severe cases or when conservative methods fail, we have an excellent network of specialists to refer you to for consultation.


Preventing upper back pain involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle, practicing good posture, regular exercise to strengthen back muscles, avoiding prolonged periods of sitting, and using proper lifting techniques. As part of your treatment at WellCore Health and Chiropractic we will cover each of these areas because, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


Upper back pain can significantly impact daily life, but understanding its underlying causes is the first step towards effective management and prevention. Whether stemming from joint issues, muscle strain, disc problems, or nerve-related conditions, a tailored approach to treatment and lifestyle adjustments can bring relief and improve overall back health.

Remember, consulting with a healthcare professional is essential for accurate diagnosis and creating a personalized plan to address upper back pain. Give us a call, text or email to get started today!