Why does my upper back hurt?

Upper back pain

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If back pain is so severe and persistent that it interferes with the daily routine, we recommend taking pain relievers (NSAIDs). Because of the side effects, the pain relievers should not be taken for more than 3 days without consulting a doctor.

Physical procedures.

Massages, heat or cold (depending on individual needs) and various electrical currents have a pain-relieving effect. Warmth soothes and relaxes the muscles, thereby helping to relieve pain. Sometimes warm full baths also help (soothing: lemon balm, lavender; stimulating and circulation-promoting: rosemary), warm compresses (hay flower, fango), a hot water bottle or heat pillow in bed, blood circulation-promoting plasters (e.g. with capsicum, the active ingredient of chilli).

Workplace ergonomics.

Work chairs should have a backrest that moves with you and supports your back at the same time. The correct height of the table and chair is also important. Ideally, the upper and lower arms as well as the upper and lower legs form at least a right angle. If the arms rest loosely on the armrests, this position relieves the shoulder area. Palm rests in front of the keyboard also relax the shoulders while typing, but are also good for the neck.

To keep moving.

As long as the doctor does not prescribe otherwise for acute pain, movement is allowed and is good for the spine. This mobilization of the spine is particularly useful for people who sit many hours a day. A regular change of position during the working day prevents bad posture. For example, integrated standing desks at the desk, on which the phone stands, or height-adjustable table tops ensure that people get up regularly. The frequency is more important than the duration of the interruption. Experts also recommend compensating for the lack of exercise at work with sport in your free time. It is even better to cycle to work: If the distance allows this, it means movement in everyday work without spending a lot of additional time. In addition to classic sports, there are also alternative forms of movement such as yoga, which stretch and strengthen the back from gentle to powerful. At the same time, yoga relaxes and reduces stress and tension.

Mind-Body Therapies.

For chronic back pain problems, the treatment is supplemented by mind-body therapies. Techniques such as autogenic training reduce stress and relieve tension through self-relaxation. Some patients with back pain are helped by Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation, in which muscle groups are consciously tensed and then loosened again. The procedures are primarily prophylactic.


Dr. med. Arne Schäffler; Dr. med. Brigitte Strasser-Vogel; in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Editorial processing: Miriam Knauer | last changed on at 12:34