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Find Relief for Upper Back Pain


Upper back pain is pain or discomfort in the area between your shoulder blades. It varies in severity and may be constant or you may only notice it with activity.

At Dignity Health, we understand that living with upper back pain can prevent you from your normal activities. If you have upper back pain in the Bay Area, use our online Find a Doctor tool to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist that’s right for you.

Upper Back Pain Symptoms

Upper back pain can start out slowly or come on suddenly. Sometimes it can be severe and limit your mobility. Depending on the cause, upper back pain can feel like a sharp, stabbing sensation, or it can be dull and achy.

Causes of Upper Back Pain

One of the most common causes of upper back pain is a sprain or strain, which usually goes away on its own within a few days. 

Other causes of upper back pain involve the spine. This includes spinal arthritis, spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal, and degenerated, ruptured, or herniated discs. Osteoporosis — or thinning bones — can also cause upper back pain. 

Sometimes, other medical conditions, such as a heart attack, can cause pain that spreads to the upper back. Other important causes of upper back pain include:

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Compression of one of the vertebrae
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)

If you have upper back pain with chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, jaw pain, or nausea, call 9-1-1. These can be signs of a heart attack, which requires immediate medical attention.

Treatment of Upper Back Pain in the Bay Area

Your treatment options at Dignity Health depend on the cause of your upper back pain, as well as your risk factors and medical history. The goal of treatment is to relieve your pain and treat the underlying cause. 

Many cases of upper back pain get better on their own within a few weeks. Stretching, anti-inflammatory medications, massage, and hot and cold therapy can help ease your recovery.

For persistent or severe upper back pain, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, stronger pain relievers, or a back brace. You can prevent future problems by strengthening your back muscles with special exercises. Generally, surgery is a last option. 

Your Dignity Health doctor will explain your options and provide personal care every step of the way. Call 844.387.6324 for a doctor referral today.

Dignity Health offers orthopedic care for upper back pain in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.