The upper back starts from just above your waist up to your shoulders. Injuries to your upper spine or upper vertebrae (the vertebrae are the small bones that the spinal column is made up of) are difficult to diagnose, because the muscles are attached to your vertebrae, the spinal joints can also be affected which can give similar symptoms to a joint sprain. Major spinal injuries are easier to diagnose as usually pain is more intense and movement is restricted. Viruses and problems in internal organs can also be responsible for pain in the back of the chest where upper back pain is felt. Also pain can feel to be as though it is around your ribs which is because nerves that are attached to your spine go around your chest and ribs. Also upper back injury can cause numbness in the fingers or tingling in the fingers.
Injury to the joints of the upper spine can be from intense twisting movements, especially if you are using weights and move awkwardly from the shoulders Any sport which involves a throwing action or repetitive practice of a certain stroke in racquet sports. Also viruses or extreme coughing or other internal problems can give upper back problems.
Often when you have upper back pain it is difficult to relate it to the injury. You can have a lot of pain for a slight injury and very little pain for a worse injury. You may have a sharp pain or it may be a dull ache. You may feel a slight strain in your upper back and shoulder, or you may feel upper back and neck pain. This may be only when you play your sport which suggests that you have an injury that has come on gradually from the particular movement of that sport. More serious upper back injuries are usually easier to diagnose as there is usually severe pain and immobility and even breathing can cause discomfort.
Recovery can be within about two weeks, but more severe injuries can of course take several weeks. Even if your back feels fine you should not return to your sport too early as this will put you at risk for further injury.
To relieve pain for minor injuries you can apply ice to the injured area and it is best if you lay on your stomach with support under your chest taking care not to lift your head as this can hinder your spine. Try to keep you shoulders level and avoid any twisting even if this feels more comfortable. Continue applying ice every two to three hours for the first twenty four hours, but it is advised to seek medical advice if pain persists or you have any other symptoms.
The best way to prevent further injury and upper back pain is to strengthen all your back and abdominal muscles as this will serve as protection for you upper back. Of course stop any exercises if there is any pain or discomfort. Before you resume your sport you should run slowly and build up gradually running faster and incorporate gentle moving and twisting of the shoulders and upper body. Before returning to a racquet sport you should play the strokes without your racquet and build up to using your racquet only and then use with ball or shuttle. As we know it's very difficult to play by half but if possible have a few gentle warm up games before you play full on.
Always consult your Doctor before performing any exercise or treatment. All information on the common sports injuries web site is provided as general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any sports injury.