Sunday, December 20, 2009

Upper Back Pain

Any type of trauma can cause upper back pain, whether it’s continual stress of the muscles in the face or back, or physical injury. The good news is that if you’re suffering from upper back pain most of it can be controlled by external manipulation of the back with different types of treatments that are not invasive. Read on to find out what it is, and what causes it, and the different ways to treat the pain.

Doctors have found that some upper back pain is aggravated by tenseness from improper jaw alignment such as TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction), or even sinus headaches stress. However, some myofascial pain is difficult to pinpoint its cause. Myofascial pain is the inflammation of connective tissues that surrounds the any muscle in the back. Irritation occurs very easily in the upper back because of large muscles that run across the back, and attaches your shoulder blades. The symptoms of back myofascial pain in the upper back can include tingling, and sharp pain or tightness.

Often the symptoms will come and go, but if it’s severe enough, it can bring on chronic pain in your upper back area. Some people will even report stiffness and problems with sleeping, and at times dizziness. You don’t have to have all of the symptoms to have upper back myofascial pain; it just depends on what’s causing it.

Sometimes you might find that doing certain activities such as sitting for to long, exposure to humid or extremely cold temperatures, or even stress can bring on an attack of upper back myofascial pain. Trigger points are found in the body at certain locations. This can be very difficult to find considering the human body has over 400 muscles.

Once the trigger points are located, it is easy to feel knots, or extremely tight bands of muscle. This is due to the inflammation surrounding the muscle fascia. Because the body has millions of nerve endings, the pressure on the trigger points can lead to other pain in the lower back and body.

Treating your myofascial pain is a two-pronged attack on pain. First, you must identify factors that cause it, such as bad posture, or repetitive actions such as typing at a computer. These two factors are the primary reasons most people experience upper back pain. Exercises for good posture will help cure a lot of upper back pain. You will need to remember to use good posture especially when sitting at a computer too. To help eliminate upper back pain at the computer do not spend to long of a period sitting. Break up your work into segments, and get up and gently stretch your muscles with appropriate exercises.

If your pain is not helped by strictly changing your posture and work habits, it might be time to look at using acupuncture, massage therapy, or steroid injections in the trigger points from your doctor. Acupuncture has been long thought to help the body experience less pain by making it produce hormones to fight pain. Also, the brain experiences the perception of pain is dulled by acupuncture. Deep massage therapy works the same way as acupuncture, but isn’t invasive at all. Muscle tenseness and tightness is massaged out, and will help with spasms too. This is very important for pain management of upper back pain because the large muscles are so prone to irritation. Also, it prevents the continued cycle of muscle spasms from continual pain.

Joint dysfunction in the upper back area is another way pain can occur in the back. Your ribs are attached to the back vertebrae by two joints on the right and left sides of your body. If pain is consistent talk with a chiropractor or osteopathic doctor or certified physical therapist for treatment. All three practitioners are trained in the way to manipulate joints, bones and muscles. They can make your muscles and joints around and connecting the rib cage to the spine mobile. You’ll need to continue therapy with an at home exercise routine, which will also keep your muscles strong and fluid.

Finally, know that you have lots of options for treating myofascial upper back pain. Treat your upper back with the respect it deserves, and continue treatment as your doctor recommends because you can live pain free.
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About Your Upper Back Muscles

What happens when back muscles tighten?
A lot of pain that occurs in the upper back and neck is due to muscles becoming too tight. The tight muscles do not allow as much blood into them as is needed and therefore they do not get the energy and nutrients they need to stay healthy. Therefore tight muscles weaken and then tighten up further, so a viscous circle has begun.

What can cause tight muscles?
* Overuse causes small micro tears in the muscles. The muscles then tighten up to protect themselves.
* Poor stretching routines, particularly after training. If the muscle is not stretched to it's natural length regularly it may adaptively shorten.
* Scoliosis. If you have a sideways curve in the spine then some muscles will be put under more strain than they can cope with.
* Bad posture. The head is a very heavy object and if you position it just a few centimeters the wrong way this can considerably increase the work the muscles of the back and neck have to do

What can the athlete do about tight muscles?
* See a sports injury specialist or sports masseur for regular massage that will help keep the muscles relaxed and toned.
* Stretch properly and regularly.
* Concentrate on good posture until it becomes second nature. A good taping method can encourage you to maintain correct posture.
* Use strengthening exercises to strengthen the weak muscles of the back.

What can a sports injury therapist / professional do?
* Use sports massage and stretching techniques as part of a rehabilitation programme.
* Use ultrasound therapy to assist in relaxing the muscles.
* Give advice on posture and preventative strategies.
(C)opyright Sports Injury Clinic 2009. All rights reserved.

No matter what you do in the day, you’re constantly putting stress on your back muscles, whether it’s sitting up in bed, pulling up a chair to the dinner table or even carrying your heavy briefcase to work. All of these activities require stability provided in part by your upper back muscles.

They mostly consist of the latissimus dorsi (the lats), the rhomboids and the trapezius (traps). Aside from providing stability to your spine, the back muscles are also prominently used during any sort of pulling motion as in rowing or the tug-o-war game at field day. Let’s start with the lats!

Latissimus dorsi
It’s natural to start with the lats, because it’s the largest of the upper back muscles. It’s a triangular-shaped muscle responsible for adduction (movement towards the body), internal rotation and extension of the shoulder joint (anatomically known as the glenohumeral joint). It’s also very important in stabilizing the spine in extension (playing limbo) and flexion (bending over) of the back. But how does it work exactly?

When trying to understand the function of a muscle, it’s always easiest to start with it’s attachment points. In the case of the latissimus dorsi (we’ll call it lats from here on out), it arises from the lower thoracic region of the spine (about the middle of the back) and from the iliac crest (when you rest your hands on your hips, you’re placing them on the iliac crest). The muscle runs around the side of your body, intercalating with the muscle fibers of your abdominals (oblique muscles – for stability!). Moving up the back, the lats then attach to the medial side of the humerus (the part of your upper arm closest to your ribs).

Let’s think about this. Because the lats are attached to the inside of the upper arm, it’s easy to understand that when the muscle shortens, it’ll rotate the arm inwards and pull the upper arm closer to the body (as in a row). This is why different hand grips (either vertical or horizontal) during the t-bar row has the potential of working the muscle differently (stabalization is required from other muscles). This is where that pulling motion comes from.

If you’ve ever seen a swimmer’s body, you’re notice the huge lats. Swimming is what actually gives them that V-shaped trunk. Why? Well, they’re constantly pulling themselves through the water! Any motion that pulls your arms back towards your body is working your lats.

Many people don’t really know what the rhomboids are, so you’re in for a treat! And no, we’re not talking about geometry here. This one’s needed for pulling your shoulder blades (scapulas) together – kind of like when you pull something very closely to your body or hyperextend your shoulder joint. Most people with poor posture also have very weak rhomboids because their back is always supported by a chair.

There are 2 rhomboid muscles – a rhomboid major and rhomboid minor. I’ll only get into the rhomboid major here since it’s the largest and has more prominent applications for back stability.

The rhomboid major attaches right at the top of the thoracic vertebrae (about the level of your shoulders) and runs to the medial edge of the scapula. Thus, when the muscle shortens, the shoulder blades are pulled closer together. In other words, when you’ve done your t-bar row and you want to get that extra couple inches and really feel the squeeze in your back, this is where your rhomboids start to kick in. Extending an already extended shoulder joint is its function.

The trapezius (we’ll call it traps from now on) is a diamond-shaped muscle that lies on top of the rhomboids and part of the lats. The basic actions of the traps include retracting the scapula (pulling the shoulder blades together), depressing the scapula and elevating the scapula. Although these movements are in different directions, the trapezius is mostly involved in all of them simply because it’s muscle fibers run in different directions.

The traps start off attaching to the base of the skull (called the occipital bone), runs downward to the thoracic region of the spine and also laterally to the spine of the scapula and the acromion (anatomical locations on the scapula). These different directions allow for very different movements using a single, large muscle. Some of these include shrugging your shoulders, stabilizing the shoulder joint and tilting your head back.

Remember that the traps are also very important in stabilizing the shoulder joint and help prevent injuries. Keep them strong to avoid these seemingly unrelated problems!

Your upper back muscles are extremely important for a huge amount of movements along with core stability and posture. Don't take them for granted

1 comment:

  1. I really like the information which is shared in this blog about the upper back pain. Upper back pain could be caused by the direct result of a sudden injury or trauma. It could also be caused by slouching which causes strain over a long period of time.
    back pain relief treatment in Hong Kong