What’s wrong with my upper back?

The upper back  is a common problem area, especially for desk-bound workers, hairdressers and chefs but not all pain in this area relates to the upper back itself.

This region forms the base for the upper limb to work from but it is itself built upon the base of the entire trunk and core. Any assessment of the upper back must take into account how it relates to the rest of the trunk in a range of activities, this includes the low back, the abdominal region, the chest and rib cage. The only way we can really take the way you use your body into account is to actually assess for it, to get you to do a range of movements and activities and see how you actually perform them.

So how do we work out why your upper back is sore?

We start with a regular health and injury history and a standard orthopedic & neurological assessment like any other therapist would. This is to help us work out what sort of pain you likely have (there are different types of pain and they need to be managed differently) and to see if we can isolate where the pain might be coming from… but that doesn’t tell us much about why you have this pain or how we’re best to try and change it.

To work these things out we’ll combine what we know from your history and conventional musculoskeletal exam with a functional assessment of how you load the upper back and shoulder in various everyday movement patterns like twists and planks.

This video is a snippet of some of the movements we might look at when assessing your upper back pain so you have an idea of what we’re looking at when we examine you.

Why your examination matters as much as your treatment

This style of clinical assessment is flexible and it allows us to observe how you actually move and use your body in everyday activities. Depending on what your everyday activities are we’ll likely get you to do a range of different things. Most importantly though, this sort of assessment allows us to play with your movement and loading strategies to give us some idea of why your upper back  might be problematic and critically, it helps us identify options for improving your function and decreasing your pain.

This assessment is a critical point of difference for MOH because while many therapists take a pain dependent approach (meaning they enforce rest and wait for your pain to resolve) we know that all the evidence indicates that we need to tackle things the other way around. That is, we need to increase your functional capacity to decrease your pain.

If  back pain is holding you back, make an appointment to have it assessed with us today. We can help you develop strategies for improving back pain and function regardless of whether it’s an old or new injury.

For more information, ideas and exercises check out our Health Tips blog.