Hunching over computers and other electronic devices is one of the main causes of upper back and shoulder pain. Your shoulders and your back are intricately connected through bones, ligaments and tendons. When something is out of alignment or damaged, your pain tends to radiate. The doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) can help.
The more time you spend quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic, the more likely you’re abusing your shoulders and your back. If you’re experiencing new pain and discomfort, contact your SSI spine specialist. If you’re dealing with ongoing upper back and shoulder pain, be vigilant about your posture, but check in with your SSI physician. To minimize your current pain, avoid:
- Pouring over news websites on your devices for hours on end
- Engaging social media more as a way to connect with distant friends and family
- Crooking your neck as you talk on the phone
- Relying on your devices to feel less isolated
Possible Causes of Upper Back Pain
While hunching your back is a common cause of pain in your shoulders and your back, other issues can lead to associated discomfort. Other causes of upper back and shoulder pain include:
- Sprains and strains from overuse. Many under quarantine use their time to tackle projects around the house. If you do any heavy lifting, remember you may not be prepared. Limber up with some stretches first. If you take the kids outside to play catch or if you grapple with gardening or yardwork, don’t forget that overuse can cause ligament strains and muscle sprains, leading to aching pain between your upper spine and your shoulder blades.
- Dislocating a rib from repetitive strain. While it’s less common, lifting heavy objects overhead or exerting yourself beyond your normal activities can cause a rib to pop out of place. Even reaching too far can hurt you. A dislocated rib causes a sharp pain in your shoulder blade, and you’ll find it hard to breathe.
- Herniated disc in the neck. Herniation happens when a disc’s outer layer tears, which lets the inner fluid leak out. A herniated disc inflames nearby nerves, causing pain to radiate to your shoulder and down your arm. A herniated disc in your upper back also can lead to sharp pain around your shoulder blade.
- Compression fractures. More typical in older adults with osteoporosis, compression fractures occur when a bone in your upper back weakens and fractures. You may suspect a compression fracture if the pain feels better with rest.
- Improper lifting. Pain in your shoulders and your back may be due to lifting objects overhead, which forces your spine out of alignment and puts pressure on your upper spinal column. Injuries like pulled muscles and ligament tears are common when you use improper lifting techniques.
- Heart problems. Pain in your shoulders and your back, especially in women, may be an indication that you are having a heart attack. An aortic dissection, in which an artery tears, causes severe pain near or under your shoulder blade. These are life-threatening conditions that require immediate medical attention.
Treatments for Pain in Your Shoulders and Your Back
The first step when new pain strikes is to contact your doctor at SSI. You may need to see your doctor in person or just connect through a virtual exam. Your physician often can detect the source of your discomfort.
To relieve your pain, take steps to severely limit your screen time. Simple stretches and posture corrections may alleviate your discomfort. When your pain requires a more aggressive approach, visit the new SSI offices at 1625 Hospital Drive on the campus of the East Cooper Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant. Specialists can advise you and deliver the services you need, such as:
- Heat and cold therapy to help relieve pain from a pulled muscle or damaged ligament
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation
- Prescription muscle relaxers and other pain medications to give your shoulders and your back time to heal
- Modifying your activities to relieve discomfort and allow the damage to heal
- Steroid or nerve injections for immediate relief
- Stretching and therapeutic exercises to reduce pain and prevent it from worsening
- Minimally invasive interventions to treat a compression fracture when rest alone doesn’t work
Your doctors at SSI offer treatment options available to relieve your pain and discomfort, whether it occurs in the midst of quarantine or not. You don’t have to — and shouldn’t — wait until your pain worsens to seek the counsel of specialists. Your doctor at SSI has answers to pain in your shoulders and your back.