Upper & Lower Back Pain


Back pain is a relatively common problem and can originate from various causes. These causes can be different depending on if the pain is experienced in the upper back versus the lower back.

Pain in the upper back can occur from sudden injury or trauma, and it may also result from chronic, regular strain or ill posture. Upper back pain is relatively common, as it can be caused by things many people do every day, such as slumping and slouching, playing sports, or doing yard work. It can also be caused by experiencing blunt force to the back, being involved in a car accident, or lifting something too heavy. 

Out of all the general causes of upper back pain, most of it either comes from joint dysfunction or muscular irritation, also known as myofascial pain. The muscles of the back are large, so they are more prone to becoming irritated. Muscular irritation can be caused by overuse injuries, such as those often suffered by athletes, or a general lack of strength. Upper back pain is caused by joint dysfunction when the joints of the spine and ribs do not function properly. This is called Vertebro-Spinal Subluxation Complex, or VSC, which is a misalignment of the segments of the spine, the vertebrae, causing irritation of the joints, discs or nerves coming out of the spinal cord. VSC describes what happens when spinal bones lose their normal position or motion from stress, trauma or chemical or postural imbalances. Accidents, injuries, improper lifting, drugs, emotional stress, postural stress and long periods of sitting can all cause VSC, which it turn causes upper back pain.

Much like upper back pain, lower back pain is commonly caused by overuse or acute trauma. Lower back pain is also often caused by added pressure to nerves, which results from several conditions. For instance, a herniated disc can cause nerve pressure. A disc works as a shock absorber for the vertebrae of the spine, so when discs break or bulge, they are said to be herniated. Diseases such as osteoarthritis can lead to lower back pain, and lower back pain can even be aggravated by regularly toting a heavy shoulder bag. But, as with upper back pain, the primary cause of lower back pain is joint dysfunction, or Vertebro-Spinal Subluxation, which, again, is when spinal bones lose their normal position or motion from stress, trauma or chemical or postural imbalances.

In either case of upper or lower back pain, the Chiropractic Approach is to locate the cause of the pain and then address it with appropriate treatment. This starts with a complete case history and a thorough examination. Special attention is given to the structure and function of the spine and its effects on the spinal joints and the nervous system. Primary causes of spinal pain are 1. Degenerative Joint Disease, which includes wear and tear and thinning of the spinal joints and discs and the consequent development of bone spurs and sclerosis; 2. Disc problems such as bulging or herniated discs which can directly pinch nerves; and/or 3. (and this is by far the most common) spinal misalignment, also called Vertebro-Spinal Subluxation Complex or VSC which can cause painful dysfunction of the spinal joints and nerves.

In evaluating upper and lower back pain chiropractors ask these questions: Is there a normal spinal curve or is it too flat or too arched? Are the nerve openings between each pair of spinal bones free and clear? Is the pelvis or spine balanced or tilted or rotated to the side? Is the pelvis level? These and other considerations are used to create a plan of specific Chiropractic treatments, sometimes along with other therapy modalities such as stretching, exercise, traction, electrical stimulation and others to help improve the motion and position of the spinal vertebrae. With improved structure and function, pain in the upper or lower back often diminishes or totally disappears, without drugs or harmful side-effects.