Upper back pain and advice to reduce the strain of coughs and colds

The upper back is a common area for pain and discomfort. The upper back, or thoracic spine, is by its very nature the less mobile part of our spines. It is surrounded by a rib cage and has a role as part of a protective structure around our vital organs.

Pain in this area can occur in anybody, but it is common in children and adolescents, and more so in females. Often in younger people the problems relate to the use of backpacks, and the weight of the backpack. It might be related to sports activities. The seating at school can be problematic. Issues can also arise in relation to emotional stress and anxiety.

All of the above can be relevant in adults too. Often being seated at a desk all day is troublesome, or any prolonged slumped postures.

Common reasons for upper back pain are:

  • Trauma or injury. Trauma may be actions such as coughing and sneezing.
  • Strain/poor posture over time.
  • Shingles.
  • Respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
  • Rib injuries.
  • Muscular/soft tissue injuries.
  • Inflammation, degeneration, infections, metastases to the spine.
  • Sometimes pain in this area may be related to primary conditions, such as osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, and Scheuermann’s disease.

A problem with the positioning and mobility of the upper back could also have consequences for adjacent areas of the body that are mechanically linked. Very often problems in the shoulders and neck will occur alongside upper back issues.

Osteopathy takes a holistic approach and considers your general health and overall mechanics when tackling any issue.

Osteopathy can help mechanical problems by working directly into the area, and offer advice about self-care. It could also serve a supportive role alongside some chronic respiratory problems and primary conditions (such as those detailed above) to support well-being as well as providing pain relief.

We are now in the season of coughs and colds. These can cause problems, or can be incredibly difficult to manage if you are in pain. The following are a few tips that could help you avoid or manage issues:

  • If you have a cough or feel a sneeze coming on. Try and stay in a neutral position in your spine. Don’t bend forward or twist if possible.
  • You could place your hands on a table/surface ahead of you to brace yourself.
  • Standing against a wall with a pillow behind your back can reduce the impact.
  • Hugging a cushion to your chest can also reduce the “trauma” of a cough or sneeze.
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