My upper back pain is really from my ribs? Many patients are surprised to find out that their upper back pain is actually coming from their ribs! Sometimes it can cause pain with deep breaths, coughing sneezing, etc. it can even wrap around to the front or cause pain and tenderness near the sternum.
Often the pain is just to the left or right of the spine in the mid to upper back region near the shoulder blades. It is frequently accompanied by muscle spasms.
The ribs attach to the spine forming a joint know as the costoverterbral joint. This joint, like any other, can become strained. This can happen as the result of a fall, car accident, bending/twisting. I strained mine at the gym while performing dips. But many times the cause is unknown.
What helps? Ribs can be manipulated (quick push resulting in a pop) which can provide great relief. Muscle spasm can be relieved by soft tissue work or dry needling. Various exercises can then be performed to help improve strength and mobility. One such exercise is slowly rolling your back on a foam roller, this can help release the muscle spasm and loosen up the back. To be fair, the foam roller can be a bit uncomfortable while you're using it, but afterwards you'll feel looser and less painful.
AJ Ludlow is a Doctor of Physical Therapy serving the Provo/Orem area and specializing in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injuries.