If spending countless hours slumped over your work desk or consistently sleeping in strange positions has given you a sore upper back, chances are you won’t need surgery to get through it. Simple home remedies can diminish the discomfort as your body endeavors to heal itself, though you may need to seek further assistance if your back is in extreme pain or if persistent habits are causing the problem.
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Rest and Relaxation
Lying down to avoid moving your sore upper-back muscles too much can help reduce discomfort and encourage healing. During your downtime, you may want to use techniques such as progressive relaxation to take an active part in your own rehabilitation. Progressive relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles in sequential order all the way down your body, helps you learn to recognize when you are tensing your muscles in daily life. SpineUniverse.com warns that lying flat for a full week can actually cause greater stiffness and worsen back pain, so limit horizontal time and begin stretching and moving around to diminish some discomfort.
Massage, which involves manually manipulating the soft tissues in your body, can help reduce aches, stiffness and tension in your muscles. Massage also promotes blood flow to achy areas, which produces soothing warmth and promotes faster healing. One way to receive a massage at home is to get in touch with a licensed therapist who makes house calls, but you have other options. For example, you could ask a roommate or significant other to rub lotion into your sore muscles or use a hand-held self-massaging tool.
Stretching can improve your flexibility and posture to reduce current back pain and lower your risk of future soreness. In addition to stretching your back, you should also stretch other areas of your body to keep your upper back healthy. For example, having tight muscles in your chest can pull your shoulders forward, causing strain on upper-back muscles that try to pull your shoulders back. To prepare for stretching your chest muscles, stand in front of an open single-door doorway, place your feet about shoulder-width apart and place your forearms at about 90 degrees on each side of the door, recommends “Arthritis Today” magazine. Lean into the doorway to feel your chest and front shoulder area gently open up, then hold for about 30 seconds.
Ice and Heat
If your upper-back pain is accompanied by spasms and inflammation, taking a chilly shower or applying a cold pack or cool compress can help alleviate some of it. Alternatively, heat therapy such as a warm shower, hot compress or heating pad can help tense muscles relax and improve your range of motion. A doctor or physical therapist can offer you advice on which would work best for you, or you can try out both to determine which feels better.
When to Get Help
Though you may not be back up to speed for a matter of weeks, you should talk to your doctor if you notice no improvement in your upper-back pain after 72 hours of home care. Also, get in touch with your doctor if the pain is intense, if it follows an injury such as a blow to your back or a fall, if it interferes with your daily activities, if it happens frequently, or if you have a history of health issues such as osteoporosis.