Modern-day lifestyles have an impact on our health and overall conditioning, which can cause chronic ailments such as back pain. Today, many of us have sedentary lifestyles, which can involve sitting for long period of time and having limited movement and exercise. Due to this, one is susceptible to conditions such as upper back pain. Upper back is the area of the back between the neck and lower back. The common problems associated with it are stiffness, muscle spasms, and pain. A common occurrence is severe pain between shoulder blades.

To get a clearer picture, let's consider the general anatomy of the area involved. Area of the back (spine) between the two shoulder blades is called the thoracic spine. Shoulder blades are called scapula. Major muscles are the rhomboids (major/minor), trapezius, levator scapulae, infraspinatus and supraspinatus.

Causes for Upper Back Pain

Back pain between shoulder blades can be caused due to straining of the shoulders and the upper back, sustaining an injury, through poor posture, stress, and sleeping posture. Often, people who work with computers all day, experience this condition. This back pain between the shoulder blades and the neck also extends to the shoulders. Also, driving for long period of time, carrying children, and performing repetitive tasks involving mobility of the arms and sports activity can also cause back pain. Other causes are joint malfunction, muscular irritation, disc injuries, whiplash injuries, and sometimes lung conditions and osteoporosis. Poor sleeping position can also contribute to upper back pain when sleeping.

Common Causes of Back Pain
Improper lifting
Sudden, strenuous physical effort
Accident, sports injury or fall
Sleeping position and/or pillow positioning
Poor sitting or standing posture
Bending forward too long
'Hiking' your shoulder to hold the phone receiver to your ear
Carrying a heavy purse, briefcase, backpack, or child
Stress and muscle tension

Indications of Upper Back Pain

Back pain between shoulder blades may also indicate severe medical problems or conditions in the other organs of the body.
  1. It may signal a probable heart attack; it has been documented that prior to a heart attack, most experience pain between their shoulder blades.
  2. Gallbladder disease may also manifest in the form of pain between shoulder blades.
  3. It may also be caused by liver cancer and esophageal cancer.
Since, this condition can indicate other serious conditions, consult a physician if you:
  • are experiencing numbness in, or having difficulty moving, your extremities
  • experience bladder control loss or impairment
  • Develop a fever or severe headache
  • are over 60 and have been taking steroids for a long period of time
  • experience this condition when breathing
  • experience chest pain or pain in the left arm
  • experience upper back pain between shoulder blades during pregnancy
  • do not experience any improvement after 72 hours of self-treatment at home
Treatment for Upper Back Pain

The people affected by chronic back pain are treated with a combination of medications, physical therapy through exercise for back pain, and occupational or lifestyle modification to curb its causes. However, since injuries to the thoracic spine is rare, upper back pain is not as common as lower back pain. Therefore, since disk injuries and problems are rare, surgery is not a common option.

A common method is the ice and heat therapy which consists of ice application, initially for the first few days followed by moist heat. Some simple guidelines to treating this condition include:
  • Developing sensible work habits
  • Reducing stress
  • Practicing healthy posture
  • Finding good physical balance
  • Living a healthy lifestyle
Additional treatment methods used are:
  • Chiropractic treatments
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Exercise
  • Stretching exercises such as Yoga
Regular, low-impact cardiovascular exercises such as bicycling, walking, or swimming. If exercising outdoors is not an option, consider using a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bicycle.
Core-strengthening exercises.
Gentle stretching to improve and maintain flexibility.

Back pain is a common problem and can range from mild to severe. Following the aforementioned guidelines might prove beneficial. However, if the pain still persists, it is better to consult the concerned doctor.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.