UPPER BACK AND NECK PAIN? WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Upper Back and Neck Pain is a very common pain combination.

It can happen suddenly with a “Whiplash” injury or trauma, or gradually due to poor posture or muscle imbalances.

Pain in the Upper Back and Neck can be even more disabling than Low Back Pain.

I have found some products and tools that can dramatically reduce upper back and neck pain. For example, sleeping with a cervical pillow and on the right mattress, and using the right office chair, or vitamin supplement, all can reduce your pain.

The products I recommend for relief can be seen by clicking the link below.

Click here for a list of all the pain relief products that I use, or that I recommend to patients, family and friends.


The upper back (thoracic spine) is the part of the spine that bends backward, when looking at a person from the side.

This backward bend is called the Kyphotic curve of the spine.

The upper back is the least flexible part of the back. This is because it is connected to all the ribs. The ribs protect the vital organs. They connect in the front to the Breastbone (Sternum), and in the back to the bones in the thoracic spine.

The Neck (Cervical spine) is made up of seven bones (Vertebrae) that start at the base of the skull and end at the top of the shoulders.

Neck movement happens when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the neck and upper back are used.






Why do we often get both Upper Back and Neck Pain?

• These two parts of the spine work together to move the head, and to support shoulder and arm movement

• The Upper Back and Neck are an extension of each other

• The muscles in the Neck extend down into the Upper Back

• Muscles in the Upper Back extend up into the Neck

• Nerves in the Neck extend down into the Upper Back

The cervical and lumbar spines are above and below the Thoracic Spine. These two sections of the spinal column are much more flexible because the rib-cage is not restricting motion there.

The point where the Neck meets the upper back is where you can see and feel a large bump at the base of the Neck.

This bump is the first vertebrae of the thoracic spine.

This part of the spine where the Neck connects to the Upper Back is responsible for a lot of Upper Back and Neck Pain.

Upper Back and Neck Pain becomes more common as people get older.

As we get older the muscles and tissues of the Upper Back stiffen. Stiff means not flexible. Not flexible means more likely to get injured.

Injuries that can cause Upper Back and Neck Pain:

• Auto accidents (Whiplash/Hyperextension injuries)

• Repetitive stress injuries

• Contact sports injuries

• Slip and Fall injuries

• Disc Herniations

The most frequent cause of whiplash is a car accident

It doesn’t have to be a high speed accident to cause whiplash. Researchers have found that very slow speed collisions can cause whiplash injuries even when there is very little damage to either car.

A whiplash injury is a soft tissue injury to the ligaments, tendons and muscles—caused by abnormal traumatic stretch to the Neck and Upper Back. It most often results in Upper Back and Neck Pain.






Whiplash Symptoms can include:

• Neck pain

• Neck swelling

• Back pain

• Upper Back and Neck Pain

• Muscle spasms

• Headache

• Blurred vision

• Dizziness

• Nausea

• Pain shooting from neck into upper back and shoulders

If these symptoms are felt immediately after an accident, it is usually a more severe injury than when symptoms take hours or days to appear.

A cervical collar (neck brace) is usually applied at the scene of an accident where whiplash is suspected. This is done to protect the spinal cord, in case there was more damage done, than to muscles and soft tissues alone.

Some people suffer a broken neck in whiplash trauma that may not be visible until physical exam, X-rays, CT or MRI scans can confirm it.

There is a reason that whiplash and other injuries to the neck cause both Upper Back and Neck Pains.

The reason is that the muscles injured in a neck injury, attach from the Neck into the Upper Back. That is, at one end they attach to the very mobile cervical spine, and at the other end they attach to a non-mobile thoracic spine.

Muscles responsible for Upper Back and Neck Pain include:

• Trapezius

• Erector spinae

• Rhomboids

• Serratus

• Rotators

• Scalenes

• Levator scapulae



All of these muscles can become inflamed and painful due to Trauma, Repetitive Stress, or Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD).

Cumulative Trauma Disorder is caused by injuries to the Upper Back and Neck. These injuries can be either acute (trauma), or Repetitive motion injuries.

Repetitive stress causes muscles to tighten. Think of when you’ve spent hours working at a computer or desk—how tight and sore your shoulder muscles get.

As muscles get tight—they get weaker. And other muscles and tissues next to the tight ones—tend to get weak also.

If you’re working long hours hunched over a computer every day, you will develop tight muscles in the Neck and Upper Back.

If the tightness is not relieved with the right treatment, there will be a decrease in blood circulation to the affected muscles.

This limited circulation doesn’t allow enough oxygen to the muscles. The lack of oxygen leads to hypoxia, fibrosis, and adhesions in the muscles.

If this condition is not taken care of properly, a downward spiral of tight, weak, and painful muscles is set in play.

A common symptom of Cumulative Trauma Disorder is Forward Head Posture (head in front of the shoulders).

This is a problem that is almost epidemic in our society today. If the forward head posture is not corrected it leads to:

• Muscle strains

• Arthritis

• Pain between the shoulders

• Pinched nerves

• Disc herniations

• Severe upper back and neck pain





Treatment for Upper Back and Neck Pain

Upper Back and Neck Pain caused by trauma should be evaluated by your primary care physician or your chiropractor.

If you know what caused the symptoms, and you’re confident that the problem is not serious, the first treatment I usually recommend for most soft tissue injuries is Ice.

Ice therapy is most effective during the first 48-72 hours after an injury. Ice should be used on the painful area for 20 minutes every hour. Ice cubes in a plastic bag or store bought ice bags should be used with a layer of cloth between the ice and your skin.

Infrared Heated Healing Pads are for those that are really in a hurry to feel better fast, Many patients have had even faster pain relief by alternating ice with heat. Using ice for 20 minutes, followed by heat for 20 minutes. This combination brings the oxygen and nutrients needed for healing to the area; while also flushing the tissue of metabolic waste products.

If your pain is primarily low back pain, this portable Infared Cordless Portable Pain Relief Lumbar Belt looks like a fabulous product.

A Firm Mattress - Sleeping on a firm mattress can do wonders in relieving upper, middle, and lower back pain. The extra support of a firm mattress will certainly help relieve your upper back and neck pain.

TENS Therapy can be an effective upper back and neck pain treatment. TENS stimulation is a type of electrical nerve stimulation that you can use at home for pain relief. A portable TENS unit can be worn on your belt and turned on as often and for as long as you like. TENS stimulation blocks pain signals thereby giving you relief. It also causes a release of (endorphins)your body's natural pain killers.

PAIN RELIEF CREAM is a natural pain relief treatment that is often surprisingly effective for back pain relief. It is also great for relief of arthritis pain and muscle and joint pain.

Trigger Point Therapy.Trigger Point Therapy can relieve a major source of pain that is often not recognized by doctors.

I use a trigger point tool all the time to self treat the tight muscles in my shoulders. You can use it on virtually every muscle on your body, and it brings amazing relief. It is called the back-buddy trigger point tool, and you can get it at can relieve a major source of pain that is often not recognized by doctors. The good news is, if your painful knot does radiate when pressed on it will likely respond well to treatment.

I use a trigger point tool all the time to self treat the tight muscles in my shoulders. You can use it on virtually every muscle on your body, and it brings amazing relief. It is called the back-buddy trigger point tool, and you can get it at Body Back Buddy Trigger Point Tool.

Inversion Therapy Tables will help relieve back pain by removing the compressive forces of gravity. Inversion will improve circulation and lymph flow, giving you a healthier immune system. It also stretches the back muscles and corrects minor spinal misalignment's.

Chiropractic care with exercises prescribed for home use, has been proven to be far more effective than the traditional recommendations of bed rest and medication for relief of Upper-Back-and-Neck-Pain.

Cervical Support Pillows can do wonders for upper back and neck pain. The nerves to your upper, middle, and lower back pass through your cervical spine. If your head and neck are not properly supported while you sleep you will slip into an unhealthy posture that will lead to a number of painful conditions. If you find you have a forward head posture, laying flat on your back is the easiest way to create better alignment.

Some patients with chronic forward head posture are unable to get their head to touch the floor when lying on their back. This is due to a combination of short muscles:

• Levator scapulae

• Scalenes

• Suboccipital

• Sternocleidomastoid

• Upper trapezius

• Pectoralis major

• Pectoralis minor

And Weak Muscles:

• Lower cervical and Middle and low trapezius

• Hyoid

• Rhomboids

Click here for a list of all the pain relief products that I use, or that I recommend to patients, family and friends.

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Exercises for Upper Back and Neck Pain:

Lying on your back allows the short pectoralis muscles to stretch. To make the stretch more effective you can lay on a hard roll or rolled up towel positioned under your spine. From this position start with your arms straight above your head, and with the arms touching the floor, slowly bring them down so that your elbows touch the roll. Repeat this 10-15 times.

Cross extension: Lay on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Lift your right arm and left leg up at the same time. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do the exercise 10 times, 5 times each side.

The Cobra: Lie on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor at shoulder height and your head back (taking care not to overextend your neck). Slowly arch your spine while straightening your arms. Hold for 5 seconds, then descend. Do the exercise 5 times.

Upper Back Extension: Similar to the cobra but without hands on the floor. Lie face down on the floor. Arms can be by your sides or straight out above your head. Gently lift your upper body off the floor without using hands. Keep head in line with trunk, don’t overextend your neck.

Hanging stretch: A great stretch for your shoulders, trapezius muscles and back muscles. Just find a chin-up bar or something you can hang your body weight from. It allows the spine and vertebrae to stretch into place. Keep breathing, and try hanging for 10-15 seconds.

Upper trap stretch: Sit comfortably in a chair. Take the right arm and hold the bottom of the chair for stability. With the left arm hold the right side of the head, and gently pull the head away from the stabilizing arm. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

Pectoralis stretch: If you are standing straight with your hands at your sides and notice your thumbs are turned in, you need the Pectoralis stretch. Stand two feet from the corner of a room. Bring both arms up into the “stick-up” position. Lean body weight onto both hands for 15 seconds. Keep nice straight posture through the neck and back. Feel the stretch in the front of your chest. Repeat 2-3 times.

Exercise ball: One of the greatest tools for stretching the entire back, and working on core stabilization, is the exercise ball (fitness ball). Just lying on your back on an exercise ball is a fabulous stretch for all of the muscles that tend to get short.

This is also a great mobilization for the vertebrae in the Upper Back. This area in the body tends to become stiff, so stretching and mobilizing here will prevent years of unnecessary Upper Back and Neck Pain.

Remember, short muscles are weak muscles. So for your Upper Back to be healthy and pain free, these stretches and flexibility exercises are worth their weight in gold.

Cervical pillows (Neck pillows) A Neck pillow was one item I recommended to all of my chiropractic patients. Poor neck posture can be caused by pillows that lack proper support. A neck pillow is sometimes called a chiropractic pillow. It has a hollowed out part that the head fits in, and a section that supports the curve of the neck.

These pillows have helped eliminate headaches, neck-pain, numbness in the arms and hands, snoring, and insomnia.

Since we spend a third of our lives sleeping, it is important to maintain good healthy posture during all those hours.

For Upper Back and Neck Pain that doesn’t respond quickly to conservative treatment, or is caused by any type of trauma, go directly to your primary care doctor or your Chiropractor.

Chiropractic adjustments have been found by the Rand Corporation, British Low Back Pain Guidelines, and the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, to be one of the most effective treatments for Back Pain.

Other treatments that may help Upper-Back-and-Neck-Pain include: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers, massage, aerobic exercise, acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, physical therapy, and surgery.

Click here for a list of all the pain relief products that I use, or that I recommend to patients,family and friends.

To Your Best Health,

Dr. Cliff

Return from Upper Back and Neck Pain to Upper-Back-Pain

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