Upper Back Pain vs. Lower Back Pain


Back discomfort is a common experience for most people and upper back pain vs. lower back pain may have different causes. Although it is easy to categorize all pain as a backache, how it is diagnosed and treated depends on which portion of the spine is affected.

The way symptoms manifest and which supporting muscle groups, bones, joints, and nerves are affected depend on the spinal location. Understanding the differences between lower and upper back pain is important for treating it properly.

Pain Location

More people experience lower back pain than upper back pain. The lower back is the most frequent source of chronic pain because it supports many movements and absorbs more stress than any other spine region. The lower back is also known as the lumbar region.

This region also has the least structural support; thus, discs and joints in the lumbar region are more prone to:

In contrast, the upper spine is less often the primary source of back pain. The rib cage protects the thoracic spine, making the upper spine less prone to injury than the lower spine.

While there are different causes of upper back pain vs. lower back pain, certain similarities between upper and lower back pain should be noted. Poor posture, a lack of enough sleep, a lack of nutritional foods, and a lack of regular exercise can all impact the joints, soft tissues, and nerves in and around the spine.

Upper Back Pain

Although the upper spine’s vertebrae move less than those in the lower back, back pain in that area can still occur. Common causes of upper back pain include:

  • Overuse
  • Strain or injury to muscles, ligaments, or discs
  • Improper posture for long periods while sitting or standing
  • Automobile accidents
  • Fractures due to falls or traumatic injury
  • Osteoarthritis

The shoulders and neck are the typical sites of upper back discomfort, which may also be accompanied by other symptoms like burning, numbness, weakness, loss of motion, and fatigue.

After a short rest period, upper back pain frequently goes away by itself. Light stretching is advised for minor upper back pain and improving posture can be helpful.

You should see a doctor if you have chronic or worsening pain. as there may be a more serious issue.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain occurs most frequently. It often affects the lower back muscles, but it can also involve the nerves, discs, and vertebrae. With lower back discomfort, both dull and sharp pain can be experienced.

Tender and painful muscle spasms, spinal stiffness, weakness, and reduced flexibility are all common symptoms of lower back pain. Because the spinal column is a complex network of muscles and nerves, a problem in one place can produce symptoms and dysfunction in another. For example, back pain may cause secondary symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and discomfort in the leg.

Common causes of low back pain include:

  • Bulging or ruptured disks
  • Sprains and strains of muscles or ligaments
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • Automobile accidents
  • Fractures
  • A narrowing around the spinal cord known as spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis- an abnormal curvature of the spine
  • Illnesses such as kidney stones

Low back pain sufferers can often get relief through resting the back, mild stretching, and exercise. Staying active is often encouraged. Just as with upper back pain, you should see a doctor if your pain becomes chronic or gets worse.

Don’t live with upper back pain or lower back pain any longer – schedule an appointment today!

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