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How to Manage Upper Back Pain

10 January 2024

With smartphones and computers now taking up most of our time, it's no wonder that upper back pain is becoming such a problem.

The bigger problem is that most of us don't actually have a choice in the matter either - our work requires us to be in front of a computer for a larger part of the day, and if we want to make a living, we have to comply!

The good news is that these problems aren't permanent, and there are plenty of ways to manage and prevent them.

Managing Upper Back Pain

A very common cause of upper back pain is bad posture. In fact, a fairly large number of aches and pains nowadays can be attributed to bad posture, and the number of people affected by it is only growing.

The best way to prevent upper back pain entirely is to maintain and practice good posture, but most of us are actually past that stage. How to manage upper back pain when it's already causing you trouble?

There are some exercises and methods you can incorporate into your daily life that can help.



Heat/Ice Therapy

When you first start to feel pain in your upper back, it's very likely that your muscles have become stiff and tense. Using heat or ice packs, you can relieve some of the tension that gets built up in your muscles. Remember that this is not a solution, and is only used to provide some instant relief, and warm up before you get to other remedies, like exercises.

You can often decide which of these - heat or cold - provides more relief, but for the first two days since the pain starts, it's usually recommended to use heat. You should also limit the application for a few minutes at a time (around 20 to 30) to prevent tissue damage.



Massages

Massages may also be helpful for some people. Even though the effects are not long-lasting, a massage can loosen some of the tense muscles and get more blood flowing to the area you feel pain in. You can use a self-massager, or get someone to help you out. You can even get help from a professional.



Medication

Medication is also often used to relieve pain, but you should be careful about which ones you use and what dosages. Pain medication is usually available without a prescription, and helps with reducing inflammation, but sometimes people start relying on the medicine instead of making any sustainable changes. You can use medication to get some quick relief, but in the long-run, it is better to make behavioral changes.



Rest & Modified Activity

Because your upper back pain is caused by something (most often, this is bad posture and slouching), no matter what you do, it won't go away if you don't get rid of the root cause. In fact, sometimes it may even get worse! Regardless of how much medicine you take and how often you get massages, if you don't address the problem, it won't really go away.

The best way to get rid of back pain is to provide yourself rest. If the problem comes from spending long hours on the computer, try and minimize your computer hours and spend more time resting. Don't tell yourself that you can just push through it - if you try this, you can easily end up with a long-lasting injury.

Be careful, though! Resting too much can also weaken your muscles, and this could cause even more pain.

For most of us, since our computer hours are work hours, we can't avoid them fully. In such cases, you should adjust the way you work. Ask a doctor to correct your posture and make an effort to fix it. Whenever you notice yourself slouching, sit up straight.

Also take breaks between your work so that you don't spend very long hours sitting in the same position. If your workspace setup is inadequate, get a better one so you can work without making yourself uncomfortable.



Exercise

We can't stress the importance of exercise when it comes to physical health. If your muscles are in pain, they need correction, and the best way to do this is to exercise. Ask your doctor for good exercises to work out your back muscles, and stick to them. Unless you do these exercises regularly, you won't see much change.

Exercises and stretches for your back are actually pretty simple. Even an hour a day can go a long way.

Preventing Upper Back Pain



Good Posture

Because bad posture is often the cause for upper (and lower!) back pain, the best way to prevent it is to have good posture. For this, one thing you should make sure of is that you're sitting straight and not slouching. Most of us will inadvertently start slouching after spending a while at our desks, but you should correct this as soon as you realize you're slouching.

Prolonged slouching or hunching over can cause the muscles in your back, core and abdomen to become strained, which causes the blood flowing to them to get reduced. This causes stiffness and after a while, starts getting painful. Keep doing it and the pain only gets worse.

You should also avoid lying on your belly or sitting on the bed when working with your laptop. Unsupported sitting positions cause you to bend forward, just a bit. Even this much can be pretty awful though, because it can put a load on the spinal discs underneath, and cause pain.

On the other hand, lying on your belly can make your lower back and hip extend backwards, which alters the dynamics of your spinal curve.

The correct way to work is to have your back straight and resting against something. Keep your computer screen straight ahead, so you don't have to bend your neck to look at it. Your arms should bend at a 90 degree angle at your elbows, and your elbows should be at your side.

Also keep your feet resting on the ground, to prevent pain in your knees and thighs.



Ergonomic Furniture

Most people will simply make do with what furniture they have when doing any sort of work, and this is understandable. Not all of us have the means to invest in new furniture. For a lot of temporary, short-term activities, you don't even need dedicated furniture.

But computers and laptops are everyday devices now - you use your computer for work or school or even personal use, and quite a lot of back problems admittedly stem from the hours we spend at our computers.

For this reason, having a good ergonomic desk and chair becomes important.

FlexiSpot Height Adjustable Standing Desk

The FlexiSpot Height Adjustable Standing Desk is a great option to decorate your workspace and prevent back pain at the same time.

It's easy to set up and assemble, so you don't have to worry about setting aside a whole day just to make your workstation functional. The workspace is also very spacious, so if you have a lot of items you need for your work, you don't have to worry about them cluttering up your desk.

The under-desk space is also quite decent, so you can put a cabinet or pedestal if you want, or just get more space for your legs.

The most compelling feature of the desk, however, is its height adjustable settings. Many times, poor posture comes from the fact that the furniture you use is not suited to your body type. Either you're too short or too tall. If your back is straight, your feet don't reach the floor, or vice versa. You may have to reach up for the desk and put your arms at risk if everything else is positioned correctly.

You can solve all these problems by getting a desk with a height adjustment setting. This way, you can set the desk at whatever height works for you, in a way that makes sure your posture is not compromised.

FlexiSpot's height adjustable desk comes with buttons to easily program what height you want. You can preset your height preferences as well, so that if you make any changes you can easily go back to your usual.

It's also easy to change the height since the desk comes with a motor attached that takes the tabletop up or down. The motor is quiet so it doesn't disturb you while you work, and the steel frame is very durable. It also comes with an anti-collision function so that you don't accidentally end up damaging something that was in the way while adjusting the desk height.

Upper back pain is quite a problem. Not only is it just outright painful, but the pain can also hinder your productivity in other areas, which can cause you further headaches. While you can get rid of back pain over time, it's always a better idea to invest in good furniture and prevent it before it even starts.