How to Relieve Upper Back and Neck Pain

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Sunday February 19, 2023

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Pain in the neck or upper back is common in adults. Fortunately, there are a few ways to relieve this discomfort. This article will cover the common causes of back and neck pain and how you can relieve your symptoms. 

Causes of Upper Neck and Back Pain

Your neck and upper back feature numerous muscles that support different parts of the body and enable motion. These muscles bear a lot of weight, so they may suffer injuries from overuse or sudden motion. Some medical conditions can cause upper back and neck pain, too. 

Here are some of the most common reasons for neck and back pain:

  • Muscle strains: You can strain your neck and upper back muscles from overuse. Looking up or down for prolonged periods strains the neck. Poor posture and peculiar sleeping positions can strain the neck and back. Heavy lifting with improper form is another prominent cause of muscular strain in these areas. 
  • Traumatic injuries: Neck pain often stems from a sudden forward or backward motion called whiplash. You can hurt your neck this way by being in a car accident, riding a roller coaster or even slipping while walking. 
  • Diseases and conditions: Meningitis, cancer and various types of arthritis can cause muscular pain by weakening the neck’s muscles and tendons.
  • Joint damage: The spine’s joints wear down over time, often causing painful bone spurs to form. 
  • Nerve compression: Pressure within your vertebrae can squeeze nearby nerves, triggering your brain’s pain receptors. 

Relieving Neck and Upper Back Pain 

If you live with back or neck pain, managing your symptoms is possible with the right tactics. Here are the five best ways to relieve your upper back and neck pain:

1. Rest 

Muscular strains heal over time, so let your body rest if you hurt your neck or upper back. Too much motion too soon after an injury can exacerbate the issue. 

2. Ice and Heat

Icing and heating the area that hurts can alleviate pain. Start by icing your sore muscles to contract nearby blood vessels. This will reduce swelling, soothe inflammation and numb the area. After icing for 20 minutes at a time for two to three days, apply heat for 15 minutes at a time to dilate the blood vessels. Increasing blood flow after reducing swelling and inflammation will encourage healing while restoring mobility and flexibility. 

3. Over-the-Counter Medication

Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen reduce inflammation and minimize pain. Always follow the bottle’s directions and limit the medications to short-term use unless instructed otherwise by your physician. 

4. Posture and Sleeping Position Adjustments 

The muscles in your neck and upper back go to work any time you move your spine from its resting position. Sitting, standing or lying in an unnatural position for a long time causes continuous muscle tension, which can lead to strains and pain. 

Sit and stand with your shoulders in a straight line, your back upright and your eyes forward to reduce tension. The same applies when you sleep — lie on your back or side, keeping your back and neck straight. Support your head with a pillow in a natural position. 

5. Stretching

Exercises that gently stretch your upper back or neck can improve flexibility and reduce painful tension. However, you should be cautious and wait until some of the initial pain subsides — overdoing your stretches can set your recovery back. 

You Can Manage Your Upper Back and Neck Pain

Millions of adults experience upper back and neck pain due to issues such as minor strains, major injuries and chronic conditions. If you suffer from upper back or neck pain, you can manage your symptoms by resting, cooling and heating the areas that hurt, taking over-the-counter medication, adjusting your posture or sleeping position, and stretching. With these tips, you can live every day to the fullest while reducing your discomfort. 

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