MIDDLE & UPPER BACK PAIN
Feeling like you’re being stabbed in the back? There are many reasons why this can happen. Poor Posture, Rib Subluxations, Strains, Disc issues or even Metaphysical! Whatever the reason, it’s a super uncomfortable condition so let’s talk about the most common causes of upper or middle back pain and share some of our most effective natural remedies to help treat them at home. Throughout this page we will refer to upper back and middle back pain interchangeably as the conditions, in our eyes, are all very similar.
What Can Cause Middle Back and Upper Back Pain?
“Stand up straight. you have ski-slope shoulders!” said Mum multiple times a day. What teenager would listen to that! Errm…guilty!!
Slouching like a sack of potatoes for hours on end? It's no wonder you're experiencing middle or upper back pain. Poor posture can put a lot of pressure on your spine and muscles, causing discomfort and pain. These muscles become so fatigued by being in the wrong position all day that they start failing at their job of maintaining the thoracic spine in the optimal position, and this is where things go downhill faster than an Olympic skier. Working on our ergonomics is the place to start. Continuing to put our bodies in the positions that caused the problem in the first place, while we try to rebalance the muscles is counterproductive. We will go through how to balance the muscles of the thoracic spine below.
For more information on how to assess the ergonomics of your workstation, watch this video!
Vertebral Or Rib Subluxations
Don’t panic, just a big word for your Thoracic Vertebrae or ribs being out of whack! There is an optimal position for our spinal joints and ribs, and sometimes poor posture or an incident causes the joints to be in less than optimal positions which triggers off pain and dysfunction. Sometimes it’s immediate and other times it can take a few days or weeks to become painful, as the inflammation gradually builds up and sets off the pain response. This one is likely to need the assistance of a health practitioner like a Chiro or Osteo to adjust the vertebrae or ribs and to work on the soft tissues to help encourage these joints to stay in their optimal position. Now I don't know about you, but it’s certainly happened to me…it can also ‘go out’ metaphysically! Sometimes an emotional issue can cause a rib to ‘go out’ and cause pain due to the emotional stress we are under.
Muscle Strain Or Ligament Sprains
Did you overdo it at the gym? Or maybe you twisted your torso awkwardly while trying to pick up a heavy object? Sports injury perhaps? Muscle strain and ligament sprains can happen to anyone and can cause pain in the middle or upper back. Plenty of treatment options coming your way below to help with these two issues.
A disc bulge is no joke. When the soft material inside the discs (nucleus pulpous) in the spine pushes out through a damaged section of the exterior of the disc (annulus fibrosis), it can literally bulge out to the point of causing physical pressure on the nerves in the middle or upper back, leading to pain and discomfort. This pain tends to be quite localised or may radiate along the chest. Postural correction and reducing inflammation and speeding up healing is where we need to focus for this condition, more on this later.
Ladies, listen up! Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weak and brittle, and it's more common in women than men. This is due to hormone changes that can happen during menopause which directly affects bone density. Oestrogen is essential for healthy bones and as the levels drop after menopause, this can result in decreased bone density. Not ideal! This can lead to compression fractures in the vertebrae of the spine, causing pain in the middle or upper back.
Osteoporosis isn’t the only cause of thoracic spine fractures. If you've suffered a fall or some other trauma, you can also fracture a vertebra in your middle or upper back. This can be incredibly painful and it’s usually a very specific location of pain. By this I mean, if you could reach around to the pain with your hand, the pain would be directly under your finger rather than a pain that is more widespread like what would fit under the size of your palm, and may require medical attention. Here we need to help the body to heal the broken or fractured vertebrae to build it back stronger, more on this below. Check out the Trauma Relief and Bone Aid Homeopathic Pain Relief Quad Pack HERE to ease any fractured bones in your body.
As we age, our joints start to wear down. Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects the joints in the middle and upper back, causing pain and stiffness. Not dealing with tight muscles in this area, make this substantially worse, as the muscles literally pull the joints closer together and cause significantly more wear and tear over time. The Trio of Creams is a saviour for arthritis sufferers, whether it’s in your thoracic spine or anywhere else in your body. These three creams have got the most important parts covered. Bone Aid Relief Cream for the bones, Trauma Relief Cream for the soft tissues, including the articular cartilage and the Heativate® Relief Cream to increase the blood flow, to take those building blocks provided by the Bone Aid Relief Cream and the Trauma Relief Cream and deliver them deep into the joint where they are needed the most. For more info on the TRIO click HERE Or perhaps you'd like to read our blog on arthritis and ways to help manage it at home, click HERE.
Yes…we had to go there! Let’s face it, having big breasts can be a real pain in the neck (and back), not to mention how hard it can be to find garments that fit well! The weight of your breasts can put extra strain on your upper back muscles and spine, leading to pain and discomfort. One way to help counteract this is to choose a bra with wider straps at the back so that the weight of your breasts are distributed across multiple vertebrae instead of just one. This can make a world of difference to the pain experienced in your back from carrying around your lovely ladies.
Believe it or not, kidney problems can also cause pain in the middle or upper back. If you're experiencing pain along with other symptoms like frequent urination, blood in your urine, or fever, it's important to seek medical attention for possible other medical issues. No amount of conventional stretches and exercise that we share here will help if there are other medical issues needing medical attention. If you are in doubt, make an appointment with your medical professional today.
What Are Some Natural Remedies I Can Do At Home For Middle and Upper Back Pain?
Alright, so now it’s time to work out how to rid yourself of this pain, regardless of the specific diagnosis. Let’s go through some suggestions that you can try at home to get your back ‘back on track’. We need to mention that if your at-home attempts to rid yourself of this middle back pain are taking longer than you’d like it could be a sign that you need professional help. It might be time to book an appointment with a Chiro or Osteo! If you’d like to book an appointment with Dr Kez (Chiro) at her clinic in Watsonia /Greensborough VIC, or book an online Telehealth appointment, click HERE.
Note that Dr Kez isn’t your typical ‘twist and crack’ Chiro as the preferred type of treatments are low force using an Activator and drop piece table if needed, also incorporating Dry Needling, Cupping and soft tissue work for a wholistic treatment you’ll be glad you came for!
Stretching can be a little challenging in this area, due to the limitation the rib cage places on this area of the spine. By far the absolute best stretch for this area would have to be the pec stretch. This chest stretch opens up the shoulders from being rounded, which has a dramatic effect on the thoracic spine posture. If you only ever did one stretch for your middle back, this would 100% be it! The best way to achieve this stretch is by standing in a doorway with your arms against the back of the door frame and leaning forward into the stretch. It can also be done by placing the hands on the wall in a corner. Facing the corner, place one hand on either wall and slowly lean into the stretch. You can change the position of your hands to reach different parts of the pac muscles.
Practising yoga can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your entire spine and has a great effect on your thoracic spine mobility, as well as promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Ommmmmm. Some yoga poses that can be particularly beneficial for middle back pain include cat-cow stretch, child's pose, downward dog and the cobra pose. There are many levels of Yoga so if you’re new to this type of movement, start at your own pace. I still remember the first time an instructor said ‘downward dog’. I was like “downward what??” Don’t worry, in no time you will be a flow pro!!
Regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles in your upper and middle back and improve your posture, which can help ease current pain and prevent it in the future. Exercises that target the back muscles, such as rows, lat pull-downs, and reverse flies, can be particularly helpful. Basically these movements focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together to return the strength to the middle back. We can achieve a great thoracic workout using the Dr Kez Chirolab® Resistance Bands, check out this video to see how it’s done. Fast forward to 13 minutes to see a free-weight option and then the resistance band workout at approximately the 14 minute mark.
Heat and Cold Therapy
Applying ice to the affected area can help relieve pain and inflammation, especially when the issue is acute. Using the Wrap-On-Ice (that can also be heated!) pack helps to keep it compressed against the spine and allows you to be hands-free in its application. On the other hand, heat is only advisable to use when it’s purely a muscular issue and not currently inflamed. Heating an area can increase the inflammation if the injury is still in the acute inflammatory stage and we definitely don't want to make it any worse. Once again, in cases where heat therapy is indicated, the use of the Wrap heat pack makes the application easy and stress-free. Another great tip for when heat is needed, also consider getting into a hot SoulSoak Recover magnesium bath. Here you get the best of all worlds, the heat of the water will increase the blood flow and start the muscle relaxation process, while the 80 essential elements and minerals found in our unique blend of SoulSoak Recover magnesium bath salts and essential oils will enter your body via the skin to take muscle relaxation and repair to a whole new level.
We all know that a massage feels amazing but it also has powerful benefits! Massaging the muscles in the middle and upper back can help to relieve tension and promote relaxation and blood flow. You can use a foam roller or a Spikey Massage Ball to massage the muscles yourself. It’s like the Spikey Ball was made to fit specifically between the spine and shoulder blade….perfect! For a different experience and one you can simply lay down and do nothing for, see a professional massage therapist. If you can hassle have a loved one for a back massage (and we know that can be a challenge in itself!) encourage them to use a therapeutic massage oil like our Restore Massage Oil blend so that you’re not only getting benefits of the hands-on experience, but also the benefits of essential oils designed to further relax your muscles and increase circulation to help the body to heal. Win-win!
What's The Best Way To Reduce Pain And Inflammation In The Middle And Upper Back?
In clinical practice, I use anti-inflammatory 100% natural Kirofix® Injury Relief Lotion and the Therapeutic Ultrasound to help relieve inflammation in all areas of the body, and the middle and upper back are no exception. The Ultrasound is such an easy-to-use device in assisting the reduction of inflammation as well as helping fast track healing of sprained ligaments and strained muscles & tendons.
Apply the Kirofix® Injury Relief Lotion (or Trauma Relief Cream - same amazing product with the same active ingredients but in a smaller size) to the area of pain first, followed by the Conductive Gel (either directly onto the skin or onto the ultrasound treatment head), then turn the Ultrasound onto the pulsed setting (turn on, then three UP button clicks). Use the Ultrasound for 6-10 minutes over the painful area and then re-apply the Kirofix® after you’ve wiped off the gel. Note: the Conductive Gel needs to be used or the sound waves don't get through the skin. We recommend using the Bone Aid Cream as well before and after the Ultrasound treatment because all of these conditions involve bones as well. The Bone Aid Relief Cream will assist with healing the bone, whereas the Kirofix® will assist with all of the soft tissue healing (including the muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs and articular cartilage), and help to reduce inflammation. Applying these two products provides the building blocks that the body requires to repair and regenerate, right where the body needs them most. After the Ultrasound treatment is complete and the gel has been wiped off, all three creams can be applied. The third cream is the Heativate® Relief Cream which assists in increasing blood flow to the area which is pertinent for healing. For more information on the Therapeutic Ultrasound click HERE.
If I Don't Have A Therapeutic Ultrasound, Will The TRIO Of Creams Still Help?
Yes, although the two working together are a powerful healing combination, the creams will certainly provide benefits when used on their own. They contain some amazing natural active ingredients, which I’m sure you’ve heard of before, in the recipes like Arnica, Magnesium, Glucosamine, Kunzea, Yarrow, Comfrey and so many others! Bone Aid Relief Cream and Kirofix® Injury Relief Lotion (or Trauma Relief Cream - same active ingredients) provides what the body needs to repair bone and soft tissues respectively. For best results we recommend using them three times per day to continue replenishing these building blocks to provide a constant supply so the body can work its magic! There are also homeopathic counterparts that go with these two products called Ultra Bone Relief Spray and Ultra Trauma Relief Spray which naturally assist the body from the inside to encourage bone and soft tissue healing respectively. And last, and by no means the least, don’t forget the Heatviate® Relief Cream which encourages the blood flow to the area, which is absolutely pertinent for healing. It's the heat cream that keeps on giving….heat! It works with your body heat so the hotter your internal temperature, the warmer Heativate® feels. It's like a hug from the sun!
What's The Best Way To Ease Tight And Sore Muscles In The Upper And Middle Back Area?
In clinical practice, I use a combination of Dry Needling and Cupping to address tightness in muscles throughout the body and thoracic spine. If the muscle has trigger points within it, (a trigger point is an accumulation of lactic acid from muscle movement) I would choose Dry Needling as the preferred treatment in clinical practise. (Sorry…you can’t do this technique at home!)
Dry needling involves placing a very fine acupuncture needle into the centre of the trigger point, which causes the body to respond by flushing blood to the area. This flushes out the lactic acid, allowing the muscle to release tightness and go back to its intended length. It’s a super fast way to get results!
If on the other hand, the muscles have been tight for a length of time (this could be the result of trigger points too btw), they can end up adhering to one another. If the muscles have adhered to one another I will choose the modality of Cupping.
Cupping draws up the top layer of muscle into the cup, separating it from the muscles underneath. Separating the layers of muscles allows the muscles to go back to moving independently of one another, removing the paradoxical movement patterns that cause pain and dysfunction.
And yes…you can do Vacuum Cupping at home! In clinical practice, I choose either Fire Cupping or Vacuum Cupping depending on the area being treated but at home, you can use the Vacuum Cupping Set on your back and it's super easy to use!
To learn more about the Vacuum Cupping Set and watch a video click HERE
Do You Need Training To Do Vacuum Cupping At Home?
No! Using our Premium Vacuum Cupping Set is easier than you think. As opposed to the traditional fire cups where there’s a real art to applying the cups (not to mention the safety factor of using flame!) the vacuum system makes it a lot easier. Simply choose the appropriate-sized cups, from the set of 24, so they sit nicely over the muscles in the thoracic area. Try to avoid using large cups that might end up on the spine or shoulder blade, as this will be less effective and may result in the cup not getting the suction that is required. Apply the RESTORE Massage Oil that comes with the set, to either the skin or the rim of the cups, and gently squeeze the pump to draw the skin and muscle up and into the cup. Do this to within tolerance of the recipient or yourself (if treating yourself). Don’t get me wrong if the muscles are heavily adhered to one another, this may initially take your breath away slightly, but this intense feeling doesn’t last long. After a short while the cups feel tight but bearable. Leave them on for approximately 10 minutes and enjoy the relief that is experienced when you release the little valve on the top and pop the cups off….pure heaven! Expect to look a little like a Lego brick initially (as the skin may remain raised for a short while) and the marks of a resident octopus may take a week or so to fully disappear, depending on how tight the area was, to begin with. The darker and longer the cupping kisses remain, the more your body needed the treatment. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins that the cups release. To read more about the Premium Vacuum Cupping Set and to watch a video on how to use them click HERE
Do You Recommend Wearable Postural Correction Devices?
To be blunt…NO! Too many people rely on braces and strapping to the detriment of their own muscle strength. The postural issue that we spoke about earlier relating to the middle back, is the result of the chest muscles being too tight and the back muscles being too weak, in comparison to each other. If you wear a device that pulls your shoulder blades back for you, the muscles of your back will go from doing not enough to nothing at all, ultimately making the condition worse. The only time I have ever agreed to a patient wearing a postural correction device is when this particular patient had such severe headaches as a result of their extremely poor thoracic posture that they couldn’t function day to day. This patient committed to doing the exercise regime we set out for them to strengthen their rhomboid (back) muscles and stretch their pecs (chest muscles) and within 2 weeks we had them no longer requiring the wearable device and the headaches were gone. Disclaimer here, they did receive three adjustments during this time also. We also added our 4-in-1 TENS Machine to this patient's health regime using the Russian mode to fast-track the building of their back muscle strength.
How Can The Russian Mode On The 4-in-1 TENS Machine Help Build Back Muscles?
The Dr Kez Chirolab 4-in-1 TENS Machine has a very unique Russian mode feature that’s specifically designed for building muscle strength. Placing the electrodes on the rhomboid muscles (in between the shoulder blade and the spine, 2 from one lead on one side and 2 from the other lead on the other side). The Russian mode impulse will stimulate the muscle to contract, as if the muscle was doing a seated row in the gym, pretty cool huh!?! The beauty is you do this while sitting on the couch watching Netflix! But the real bonus is the fact that the contraction range initiated by the device is greater than what you would traditionally achieve in a general exercise workout situation. It takes the muscle to the very final degrees of contraction, making each contraction so much more valuable. To maximise each contraction, you can squeeze the muscle right at the height of the contraction to take it to the next level! All while sitting on the couch or at your desk multitasking. A great device to use if you are unable to exercise due to injury and it's great for rehab. For more info on the TENS Machine and the other 3 features click HERE.
Natural Remedies For Back Pain
So as you can see, middle and upper back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor posture, sprains and strains, herniated discs, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis, among others. However, there are plenty of natural remedies you can try at home, including stretching, heat and cold therapy, massage, exercise, yoga, and you can even get amazing professional results with your own at-home Vacuum Cupping set, Therapeutic Ultrasound and the 4-in-1 TENS Machine. Always remember, if you don’t get the results that you should with treating your conditions from home, consider consulting with a health practitioner as it may be a simple adjustment or extra pair of eyes that help to kick your middle back pain to the curb.