Upper back pain can be a total downer. The pain often stems from a pesky pulled muscle. Depending on the strain, it can take few weeks to several months or longer to recover. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back 😉.
Your upper back is the region that runs from the bottom of your rib cage to the base of your neck. Pain in that area is pretty common. About 1 in 5 females and 1 in 10 males experience thoracic spine pain (TSP), according to a 2014 study.
In addition to pain, other pulled muscle symptoms can include:
Lots of factors can contribute to an achy-breaky upper back. Common culprits include:
- improper posture
- an accident or injury
- hunching over a computer all day
- bad lifting technique (psst bend at your knees)
Keep in mind, upper back pain can be unpredictable. Sometimes an awkward bend and snap or a rough night’s sleep can trigger a bad back episode. That’s why it’s uber important you keep your form on fleek for every exercise and sleep on a top-notch mattress.
There are some DIY ways to help ease your pain. Here are seven ideas that could help soothe a pulled upper back muscle.
How long will it take to get better?
Recovery time depends on how severe the strain or pain is. Harvard Health says that most mild muscle strains will improve within a few weeks. But severe muscle tears can take 3 months or longer to heal.
1. Use a pain cream
There are TONS of pain-relieving creams that can help reduce discomfort. Try to find one with capsaicin or menthol for the best results. Why? One 2014 study suggested that capsaicin can help reduce joint pain. Menthol can desensitize pain receptors when it’s applied to your skin, according to a research review.
Pro tip: Ask your doc about Rx creams and other types of pain relieving medications if over-the-counter (OTC) options don’t do the trick.
2. Apply some heat and cold
Pro tip: A bag of frozen peas or a hot water bottle will work just fine, too.
FYI: Don’t push your sore back too far. That can make things worse.
Just make sure to stay away from intense strength training while you’re healing a pulled muscle. Your workout should be pain-free and low impact.
5. Switch shoes
Pro tip: A gel-insert can provide added arch support and stability.
6. Sleep it off
P.S. Adults should get around 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye a night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
7. Reduce stress
Stress can be a one-way ticket to Tension Town. A 2010 study found that mindfulness stress reduction can improve back pain. Other stress reduction techniques include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or journaling.
You should def talk with your doc if your upper back pain is severe. It’s also important to reach out if the pain is chronic (it won’t go away or it seems to come and go a lot.)
Let them know if home remedies just aren’t easing the pain. Your doc might suggest medications to soothe the pain or reduce back spasms. They also might recommend physical therapy or chiropractic care.
There’s plenty you can do to prevent future back attacks. Here are some tips:
- Practice proper posture.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.
- Stretch and exercise on the reg.
- Give your body time to recover after each workout.
- Do a warmup and cooldown every time you exercise.
- Use protective gear for sports or physically demanding jobs.
- Don’t push it past your limits when you exercise. If it hurts, STOP!
- Maintain a moderate weight. (A research review showed that obesity is linked to certain spinal conditions.)
- Be a cool kid and make sure you double-strap your backpack, so the weight is distributed evenly.
A pulled upper back muscle can be hella painful. Thankfully, there are lots of ways you can try to heal it at home. Pain creams, cold packs, heating pads, stretching, light exercise, switching shoes, and stress reduction are all good options.
Keep in mind, home remedies don’t always work as well as professional medical care. Call your doctor if your back pain is severe or becomes chronic. They can help you find the right treatments for your unique back probs.