Four out of five people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.59 There are countless causes of back pain, from regularly lifting children up to spending prolonged periods of time hunched over a laptop. When back pain occurs, the pain can be debilitating and cause real disruption to daily life.60

Mother and son in yoga pose

Upper back pain versus lower back pain

Back pain may occur in the upper back (the thoracic back – the part of the back where the ribs attach) or the lower back.61

Upper back pain can be felt in the top half of the back and in the shoulders. You may also experience neck pain. It can be caused by:62,63

  • damage to ligaments and tendons that have been overstretched. For example, during a vehicle accident or during a workout
  • stress and emotional tension that make muscles tighten and contract
  • poor posture that places additional stress on the spine and overloads the surrounding muscles and ligaments.

To relieve pain in the upper back, consider taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol. You could also take an oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or apply a topical NSAID.62,63

In contrast, lower back pain is felt at the base of the back. Lower back pain may be triggered by:61

  • lifting something too heavy
  • overstretching the lower back muscles
  • direct injury or trauma.

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