Upper back pain is caused by muscles that are not only in the upper back, but also that have an impact on the posterior (rear) shoulder and upper arm.
The muscles that cause upper back pain are:
There are muscles of your posterior shoulder that will refer pain to your upper back:
Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living was written to explain why muscles cause pain, and demonstrate how to self-treat each spasm/trigger point. The book has clear and colorful Trigger Point Charts are specially designed to show where each spasm is located. The Julstro series of books and DVDs show you how to treat each spasm effectively.
Visit our store to see our other resources specifically for upper back pain, including The Julstro Guide to Treating the Upper Body on DVD.
When your head really isn’t on straight your entire spine will go out of alignment, causing pain all the way down your back, and will not be correct until your head is back where it belongs. Your skull may be out of alignment from a traumatic situation such as whiplash, or it could out of alignment because of the way you sleep, or the location of the monitor for your computer. Follow along. This is interesting and explains why you get blinding headaches that feel like a hot poker is being pushed into your skull, and why the same problem can be felt all the way down your back and into your hips, legs, and even all the way to your feet.
The skull and spine are an amazing engineering design. Your head protects your brain and your brain is the beginning of your spinal cord.
Have you ever had an accident and you end up with whiplash? Whiplash is a serious condition that happens when a person has an accident that literally “whips” the head back and forth. Whiplash will cause your upper back to have burning pain. Treating your muscles will take the pressure off the nerves and the pain will disappear in your upper back.
To get relief, you need to treat every muscle of your neck, your shoulders, and your entire back in order to release the tension on the vertebrae and your spinal cord. In other words, the treatments for your neck and shoulders will straighten you from your head to your toes. It sounds like a lot, but whiplash is a serious condition and one that can last for years if the muscles aren’t released.
It is important to understand that the bones of the spine only move because muscles are pulling on them. Unless you have been involved in an accident that forcefully moves a bone out of alignment, the only way for a bone to move is when a muscle is pulling on it. It is imperative, if the spine is to be aligned properly, that the muscles are free of spasms, stretched, and functioning properly.
Each of the bones of the spine is called a vertebra, the plural is vertebrae. In between the vertebrae is a disk which is filled with a jelly type of substance that cushions each of the bones. There are many muscles that originate on your ribs, or a vertebra further up or down your spine, and insert into the vertebrae.
The spine is composed of 24 vertebrae. There are seven vertebrae in the neck (cervical), twelve in the mid back (thoracic), and five in the low back (lumbar) region. It gets a bit confusing when someone just says “back pain” because it could be anywhere from the very top, at the back of your shoulder, to the very bottom which is level with your hip line.
When the muscles pull, the vertebrae move. This is how we turn, bend, straighten up, and do all of the movements of our back. When a muscle has a trigger point, the knot pulls the two ends toward each other, and prevents the muscle fiber from stretching or moving in the opposite direction.
The use of muscles as “pulleys” is clearly demonstrated as we discuss the back. Have you ever played the game tug-of-war? Each group pulls on a rope in opposite directions, working to pull an object in the center over to their side. This is a perfect analogy of how the muscles pull on the spine. When each side is pulling equally, the vertebrae stay in line. However, if one side pulls harder than the other, for example, when one side is in spasm, the vertebrae move in that direction. It is now said to be “out of alignment.”
Think about what will happen to the tight muscle if the bone is simply pushed back into alignment without releasing the tension caused by a trigger point that was pulling on it in the first place. The muscle will tear, or it will simply pull the bone back out of alignment again.
I have suffered with back pain for years, and I’ve tried everything from physical therapy to shots to pills to exercise. I’ve got to tell you—Julie Donnelly just fixed me! It’s a miracle—I can walk!
She has a method and it all makes sense. The muscles tighten to compensate for different things you’re doing, and Julie fixes that! Find out how she can help you get rid of back pain forever!”
— Katie Evans
Just a quick update—I was very sore Sunday night after our therapy. I have a low pain threshold but I did all the stretches you showed me before going to bed that night and for once had an almost pain free uninterrupted sleep for the first time in several weeks. Hooray!
This morning, I did all the stretches again soon after getting out of bed. I have had an almost pain free day (which believe me is a miracle). Strange to say, but after living with the pain and disability for so long a time, it almost felt weird to be able to walk straight upright and have no pain. This I definitely like! Another great thing was instead of needing five Vicodin ES to make it through the day, I only needed two and a half. Now that is a huge improvement. I could bend over and my quadratus lumborum did not spasm or painfully tighten up. HEAVEN! I am doing the stretches again before bed tonight. I used my fingers on my trigger points and what a difference I can feel. They are smaller and not as painful.
I am so used to covering up the extent of my discomfort and disability to my family (keep a stiff upper lip theory) and friends but I felt you truly could see and understand the pain and hopelessness I was feeling. You are an incredible miracle worker to accomplish what you did in that session and I just cannot say thank you enough times. I know it sounds so corny but you have given me so much new hope of getting back my old active life and being healed so I can go back to the nursing job I loved. YOU ARE MY HERO!”
— Sandy Hines, Connecticut