Size – The larger the area of your upper back pain, means it’s worse, because muscles in your upper back stretch from your hip to your rib cage. These large muscle groups tends to guard your spine & spasm to protect the deeper joints. Pain radiates along the thoracic back muscles and affect large areas. However, muscles heal easier & recover faster, but usually a deeper joint is the actual problem.
Area – Upper back pain between your shoulder blades restrictive during walking, while pain in your ribs limits your breathing. If your upper back pain causes you to lean to one side you must be more concerned. Sharp pain over a small area makes it easier to pinpoint structures near your pain. Vague, dull & deep upper back pain can take longer to identify the root cause. Compensatory patterns develop, sometimes it takes a while to just get rid of those.
Swelling – Swelling is your body’s way of healing itself by sending cells to heal the tissue. More swelling could mean more tissue damage, however its very rare to find swelling in your upper back. Injury to tissue that develops over a few weeks doesn’t swell, because the tissue trauma is continuous and repetitive, so your body stops the inflammatory reaction.
Colour – Unless you’ve had a car accident or fall, bruising is very rare over the upper back. Blood vessels rupture on impact, so these capillaries leak plasma,giving you that blue bruise. Blue discoloration always justifies a lung X-ray, just to be safe there’s no rib fractures.
Motion & sore upper back
Stiff – Upper back stiffness followed by pain is regressing and getting worse. Seek help. Pain followed by stiffness is a good sign of tissue healing, specifically scar tissue formation. Scar tissue is hardening wound tissue that tends to shorten and pull on structures surrounding the injured site.
Range of movement – Difficult bending forwards or backwards is a big problem. A painful arch means the structure injured only takes tension over that specific range. If you feel pain only at the end of your range its less severe and easy to fix. When your upper back pain stops movement completely and too painful to move you should definitely come see us as soon as possible.