According to the American Chiropractic Association, 80% of the United States population will experience back pain during some point in their life. While it is incredibly common to deal with back pain at some point, experiencing pain in the upper back is less common than low back pain and neck pain. Furthermore, upper back pain isolated on the left side can potentially be a cause for concern.
Upper back pain can often be a result of muscle strain from athletic injuries or poor posture from not sitting up straight. However, the root cause of upper left back pain could be requiring immediate medical attention. For this reason, it is helpful for you to know what exactly is causing it and understand the proper remedies to relieve upper left back pain.
Common Causes of Left Upper Back Pain
In our high-tech world, it can feel almost impossible for some of us to get anything done without the use of our phones or computers. In 2021, it was found that 90% of workers use a computer for their daily work. Aside from that, most of us are constantly leaning forward and looking down at our phones throughout the day.
While screens have become a focal point of our daily lives, many of us have neglected our posture in the process. It is possible to be so lasered in on what is happening in our digital worlds, that our posture becomes poor as our shoulders begin to hunch over and we forget to sit up straight. When we sit all day with such poor posture, it becomes almost inevitable to feel some level of back pain. Specifically, pain in the upper back.
Our muscles can easily become strained by improperly using them. Poor technique when exercising can easily lead to chronic upper back pain. If an exercise is continuously repeated with improper form, continuous stress is put on the muscle and the pain will not resolve.
If you are an athlete, it is critical to learn proper techniques when working out to ensure safety and avoid muscle injuries. Over time, poor technique can cause persistent pain and greatly affect your athletic performance. If misusing the muscle continues, you can eventually create a more long-term problem requiring more intense remedies.
Often referred to as bone spurs, osteophytes occur when a normal piece of bone grows an extra piece of bone on top of it. This can result from arthritis, age, or following an injury. This can cause a numbness and tingling feeling through the arm.
If left untreated, bone spurs may cause spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing within the spine and can cause pressure, pain, tension, or weakness. If neglected, it can lead to serious damage and have permanent effects.
Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints. Arthritis is not always directly linked to upper left back pain but can contribute to it. If you have arthritis in another part of the body, you may begin to move differently in order to relieve tension in that area. However, this change in movement may cause excess tension on other muscles, such as the upper left back.
Scapular dyskinesis is characterized by impaired mobility in the shoulder blades and the inability of the shoulders to move in a full range of motion. This can be caused by weakness in the arm or detachment of the shoulder blade. However, if this condition results on the left side, this may cause chronic upper left back pain.
Abnormal curvature in the spine is referred to as scoliosis. This abnormal spinal curve can cause chronic back pain and may be the reason behind upper left back pain. Typically, the spine curving sideways causes unevenness in the body which may be why the upper back pain is only being experienced on the left side.
Severe cases of kyphosis may cause significant problems and chronic pain. Kyphosis causes the upper back to become rounded and hunched over. This occurs from excessive curvature in the spine.
When a disc in the spine is herniated, its ability to absorb the shock is impaired. You may experience upper left back pain if you have a herniated disc from the added pressure on your spinal nerves. (Read more about thoracic herniated discs on "Why Does My Upper Back Hurt When I Breathe?")
Internal Causes of Upper Left Back Pain
While upper left back pain may be caused by spinal or muscular related issues, it is also possible for the pain to be indirectly caused by problems with internal organs. If upper left back pain is triggered by internal organ damage, this should be addressed immediately.
Serious internal issues may be the cause of upper left back pain such as pancreatitis, gallbladder infection, or kidney stones. If you suspect that your upper left back pain may be caused by any of these conditions, it is important to seek medical help.
It is possible that upper left back pain can even be indicative of a heart attack, especially in females. If you believe you are experiencing a heart attack, this is a medical emergency and immediate care is required.
While we can work to understand the root of our chronic pain, it may require the help of a medical professional to understand what has been causing the upper left back pain. In some cases, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or blood tests may be recommended to gain the most insight into the cause of the pain. If you can identify that your upper left back pain has resulted from something like poor posture or muscle strain, you can begin to seek out at home treatment options.
You’ve Found the Cause, Now What?
Identifying the possible problem with your upper left back pain is key for understanding which treatment is the best solution. While treatment can vary based on severity, for causes that can be fixed without the need for surgery or immediate medical attention, there are many accessible solutions that will help to relieve your upper left back pain without the condition worsening.
Natural Treatment Options
There are many at home treatments to help naturally relieve upper left back pain. Start by correcting your posture, which is a critical key to back pain relief. If you are unsure as to how to correct posture, you can learn more about proper technique and corrections here.
Another at home treatment option is to apply heat packs and ice to the area. This can work to help relax back muscles. It is important to work the back muscles and get them relaxed. Another way to do this is by applying a topical anti-inflammatory balm. Using an all-natural balm will help to get to the root cause of the pain and help to heal the strain. We recommend using this CBD Arnica Topical Relief for best results.
Lastly, lifestyle changes can have a lasting impact on your upper left back pain and help to reduce overall chronic pain altogether. Sedentary lifestyles, excessive body weight, and smoking are all potential risk factors that can worsen back pain. If you are a smoker, chronic back pain may be your sign to quit. Smoking decreases the blood flow to the spine and causes the pain to intensify.
Why You Should Listen to Your Upper Left Back Pain
Even if the pain is manageable now, it is a sign that something in your body is not working quite right. It is important to not let the pain progress and worsen, as this can result in more extreme remedies to provide relief, such as surgery, and end up costing thousands of dollars. Upper left back pain is a signal from our body that we should address.
While it may be something minor that can be fixed by some simple at home stretches, it could also be resulting from a more serious condition. The majority of people experience back pain at some point in their lifetime, but that does not mean that you have to accept it. There are many possible causes with tangible solutions to relieve your upper left back pain once and for all.
Now that you've read about upper left back pain, feel free to read about pain around the ribs and back symptoms!
Pouliakas, Konstantinos & Souto-Otero, Manuel. (2022). Setting Europe on course for a human digital transition: new evidence from Cedefop’s second European skills and jobs survey. 10.2801/253954.Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May;25(2):353-71