Upper Spine Injuries

Lower back pain and spinal problems often get a lot of attention in the media since these injuries are more common, but upper spine injuries can be just as serious – or even more so, depending on the circumstances of the injury.

If you or a loved one have suffered an upper spine injury, an experienced spinal surgeon can evaluate the severity of your injury and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Symptoms

Upper spine injuries affect the upper vertebrae – known as the thoracic spine – typically up towards the shoulders, but sometimes as low as right above the waist. The surrounding muscles and spinal joints can also be impacted by an upper spine injury. In contrast, lower back spinal injuries occur in the lumbar spine.

Because the nerves near the upper spine extend to the ribcage, shoulders, sternum and chest, pain from an upper spine injury frequently radiates to these areas, as well as to the neck and arms. A patient’s fingers may also feel tender, sore, tingling or numb as the result of an upper spine injury.

Common Causes

Upper spine injuries typically occur from trauma, or sudden strain or stress, rather than degeneration, since the upper portion of the spinal column is built to withstand day-to-day activities, but is not made to experience rapid or forceful movements.

For this reason, it is less common for patients to experience herniated or displaced spinal discs, spinal stenosis, or the other types of problems that commonly affect the lumbar spine. Rather, upper spine injuries generally stem from:

  • Exercise and sports injuries
  • Weightlifting injuries
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Muscle overuse
  • De-conditioning or weakening of muscles
  • Auto accidents
  • Injury from twisting, bending and turning
  • Sleeping or sitting in the wrong position for an extended period
  • Poor posture and disc compression
  • Hunching over a computer or phone for hours at a time
  • Extremely severe bouts of coughing
  • Scoliosis
  • Viruses

Treatments

There are many promising options for treatment of upper spine injuries. A skilled spinal surgeon can work with a patient to review their medical records, symptoms, and diagnostic tests to determine a treatment plan.

Nonsurgical treatment of upper spine injuries is more common than surgical repair, and can include:

  • Acupuncture and acupressure therapies
  • Occupational and physical therapies
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic care
  • Manual manipulation to repair dysfunctional joints
  • Exercise programs
  • Pain medication
  • Steroid, anti-inflammatory and trigger point injections

Minimally invasive surgical spine procedures are also an option for patients whose pain is not relieved with conservative nonsurgical approaches. 

No matter what led to your upper spine injury, it is essential that you seek medical attention as soon as possible from a qualified spinal surgeon who can help you on your way to recovery.