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Back pain is something many of us experience at some stage in life. Both prescription painkillers and OTC drugs can offer temporary relief from upper back pain.

Beyond these staples, you can make effective use of both ice and heat therapy for this type of pain. Today, we’ll define upper back pain and explore the best treatment for this debilitating pain affecting millions of Americans.

What Is Upper Back Pain?

Upper back pain is a pain starting on either the upper-left or upper-right side of the back, anywhere from the neck to the center of the ribs. Pain can also occur on the spinal discs dividing the vertebrae. This pain of back pain can be chronic or acute, but what causes it, though?


Here are some of the many triggers for upper back pain:

  • Too much stress
  • Lying flat or on just one side at night when you sleep
  • Pillow is too low or high to support the neck when sleeping
  • No movement while lying down for long periods of time can cause more strain on the back muscle or spine
  • Muscle strain or sprain
  • Poor posture when sitting for long hours
  • Too much weight lifting
  • Sudden body twists like when playing badminton, tennis or golf
  • Injury to the ligaments, spinal discs that hold up the spine, and muscles on the upper back area
  • Spinal infection
  • Serious spine illness such as herniated disc or slipped disc
  • Osteoarthritis in the spine
  • Fracture on the vertebrae
  • Motor accidents
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Serious illness like cancer


  • Acute pain, spasm or burning pain on the upper back area
  • Stiffness or firmness in the muscles of the back
  • Pain on the thoracic spine region which is the back of the chest particularly between the shoulder blades from the base of the neck


Doctors for upper back pain, muscle injuries or common aches and pains approve the following treatments.

  • Ice treatment
  • Ice packs
  • Cold compress
  • Cold cloth
  • Heat treatment
  • Heating pads and patches
  • Warm compress

Ice treatment

Ice therapy is great for back muscle sprains and strains. Using ice can help to reduce pain and swelling. This form of treatment should be carried out within 48 hours after the injury or onset of the pain. It helps with blood constriction which delays inflammation.

Ice packs

Apply ice packs indirectly to the affected area as soon as possible, and for no more than 15 or 20 minutes.

Cold compress

Place cold compresses directly on the upper back to relieve pain, aches, swelling, and inflammation.

Cold cloth

Wrap a cold cloth around the affected area every 15 to 20 minutes until the pain is gone.

Heat treatment

Heat therapy can improve blood flow which eases muscles spasm and relieves pain and tightness. Apply heat directly to the painful part of your upper back within the first 72 hours.

Heating pads and patches

These can be applied where it hurts for 20-30 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.

Warm compress

Use a clean cloth and soak it in hot water then wring it out. Apply to the injured area several times daily each few hours.


Hopefully, you can now see when you need to use ice or heat for upper back pain.

Never suffer in silence, either. If you want to schedule an appointment with a pain specialist, call us today at (480) 409-7703.

The Pain Experts of Arizona was founded to bring the highest level of care in a state-of-the-art setting that emphasizes the belief of treating our patients with the same respect, compassion, and dedication we would treat our own friends and family.

Contact our office to schedule an appointment and let us help you get back on your way to an active life without the limitations of chronic pain. From our Phoenix office, The Pain Experts of Arizona, serves pain management patients in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Queen Creek, and the entire Phoenix area.