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How Chiropractors Treat Upper Back Pain

Published August 29, 2019
| Written By Brent Wells, DC   | Medically Reviewed by Allen Conrad, BS,DC,CSCS

Upper back pain is one of the most common back pain issues, although it is slightly less common than lower back pain and neck pain. Approximately 1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women suffer from upper back pain

Your upper back is considered the area that is between your neck and the bottom of your ribs and it is comprised of twelve bones. Doctors refer to this specific area as the thoracic spine.

The upper back area is quite large, which means there is a lot of opportunity for something to go wrong in the area. Bad posture, strain, overuse, tight muscles, workouts, movements at work, and much more can all contribute to upper back pain that can range from mild to severe.

In this article, we will discuss when you need to see a chiropractor for your upper back pain, how chiropractors help with upper back pain, and what some of the techniques for treating the pain are.


When You Should See a Chiropractor for Upper Back Pain 

Although deciding when to see a chiropractor for your upper back pain will vary from person to person, there are some general rules of thumb you can follow to help you navigate through the process.

If you have some upper back pain, but it is not too severe and uncomfortable and goes away quickly, you probably do not need to seek treatment from a chiropractor. Pain that is not drastically affecting your quality of life and does not linger or come back on a regular basis can often be treated at home. Perhaps your posture is poor some days or maybe your upper body workout made you tweak a muscle. In these cases, you should be fine with some ice, heat, and over the counter pain medications for treatment.

However, if you are experiencing chronic upper back pain, it is getting worse, it goes away, but comes back often, and it is making your day-to-day life harder than it should be, you should consider making an appointment with a chiropractor to help get the issues sorted out.

Not seeking proper treatment will just make your upper back pain worse and cause more serious issues in the future. Your main goal should be to avoid more intensive and invasive treatments for upper back pain such as surgery, injections, and prescription pain medications.

Furthermore, if you have had a trauma to the upper back, seeking treatment immediately is imperative. Trauma cannot be treated at home and without a doctor’s assistance.


How Chiropractors Help with Upper Back Pain

Person Massaging Man's Shoulder

There are a few different ways chiropractors can help with upper back pain. Chiropractors typically use spinal manipulation or other unique therapies that help the spine and your musculoskeletal structure get back to its proper alignment. The goal is to let the body heal itself, so there is not a need for medications and surgeries.  

Chiropractors will manipulate certain areas of the upper back so the mobility in the affected area improves. It involves the joints and tissues in the back that have been affected due to a variety of issues like:

  • Injury
  • Falling 
  • Repetitive stress
  • Improper posture 

When you see a chiropractor for upper back pain they will focus their main goal on relieving pain in any of the bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage around the area. Your chiropractor will go over your medical history with you and do a physical exam to help hone in on the affected area and how to best treat your specific condition.

Once the treatment is determined, your chiropractor will begin with one or more spinal manipulations that use sudden force in certain areas to fix the issues, so you can seek pain relief and better range of motion. 

Once your spine is in proper alignment, your chiropractor can help you with proper ergonomic advice at your workstation, which can help prevent future problems and improve posture. 


What Main Techniques are Used 

When you are looking to treat upper back pain with chiropractic care, the most commonly used and effective technique is called spinal manipulations. These types of adjustments are used to realign the spine and the nervous system. When these readjustments are made, the pain in the area reduces and spasms you may also have in the upper back will decrease and improve as well.

The diversified technique is often used in upper back pain and requires no special tools or instruments. It only uses the hand with fast thrusting motions that aim to realign the joints, so you have better functioning in the area.

The biophysics techniques focused on helping to restore better and healthy posture, which is often one of the main causes of upper back pain in many people. It helps to realign the spine and provide pain relief you are having in your upper back.

Your chiropractor may also use other chiropractic techniques on your upper back depending on the actual issues you are having and if there is anything unique in your case. Everyone’s treatment plan will be a bit different and it is up to the sole discretion of your chiropractor to decide what will work for you and what will not work well for you.

Overall, upper back pain is relatively common and at some point during your life, it is likely you will have a bout of upper back pain. Sometimes it may be a mild case that does not need any professional treatment, and other times you may want to see your chiropractor for assistance. The most important thing is to listen to your body to determine what feels normal and what feels different and unusual for you.

Chiropractic treatment is a safe and effective way to treat upper back pain and most people have great success with it. If you are experiencing moderate to severe upper back pain that is recurrent or will just not seem to go away, be proactive about your body and health and seek some professional treatment 

Spinal decompression therapy is a low force technique that is effective for injured discs and sciatica, and helps decompress the spinal area through mild traction.

Updated: February 12, 2020

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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Contributors and Experts

Dr. Brent Wells is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, and he is widely considered as one of the best Anchorage chiropractors.