The simple answer to this commonly asked question is “yes.” It’s entirely possible that your upper back pain and the pain you feel in your shoulder share a common source. Your spine protects the complex system of nerves that send and receive messages and sensations throughout your entire body.
There are an estimated 95 to 100 billion neurons or nerve cells in your body, although some estimates run as high as 1 trillion. But there are only 31 pairs of spinal nerves. These are known as “mixed nerves” because they are responsible for sending and receiving messages to and from your entire body. Many conditions or injuries can cause pressure on your spinal nerves. When two areas are located as closely together as your upper back and shoulder, it’s very possible that they’re related.
Upper back pain and shoulder pain can result from an injury. But in most cases, the two are the result of aging and degenerative conditions, such as:
- Issues with your rotator cuff
- Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
Your rotator cuff is a group of tendons in your shoulder that you put through a lot. Every time you lift, pull, or move your shoulder in its socket, your rotator cuff is responsible for much of the weight and range of movement. Injury or degeneration to your rotator cuff can produce significant upper back pain, as well as pain in your actual shoulder.
Easy to Take for Granted
You probably didn’t fully appreciate all the different ways that you move until you started feeling pain. Upper back pain can be debilitating. Shoulder pain can change how you approach everything you do. Aside from overuse and just plain getting older, some very common causes of back and shoulder pain include:
- Sleeping wrong
- Bad posture
- Playing with your kids
- Carrying shoulder bags
- Slumping at a desk or over devices such as tablets or cell phones
Spinal misalignment and repetitive stress affect nearly everyone at some point. Upper back pain can make daily activities become problematic. Thankfully, there are several treatment options available.
Getting Back to Your Normal Routines
You don’t have to let upper back pain or shoulder pain take away from your quality of life. Consulting a qualified spinal care specialist is always the best place to start. Your pain is as unique as you are and must be treated on an individual basis. There are no cookie-cutter cure-alls. Treatment and lasting relief take work and can involve:
- Correcting your posture
- Physical therapy (stretching and exercises to strengthen and restore movement)
- Maintaining a healthy diet and weight
- Not smoking
- Learning to make healthy lifestyle choices
- Working within your physical limitations
In addition to lifestyle changes, there is a wide variety of medical treatments available to you that may include:
- Non-invasive procedures
If your pain has lasted longer than eight weeks with no relief from lifestyle modifications, then it’s time for you to seek medical attention from your spine physician at the Southeastern Spine Institute. The longer you wait, the worse your pain can become.