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Upper Back Pain
by Todd Pennington, LMT

Many people have come to me with similar complaints about upper back pain. Much of the time it involves pain along the shoulder blade and restrictions in movement. Frequently the person does not know the full extent of the problem. Upper body muscle tightness normally progresses and the pain and movement become worse over time. This can be slowed down, even reversed by getting the rib cage, spine and neck to relax.

Even if you have been told that nothing can ever be done, there can be hope of change if the problem is due to muscle tightness. Frequently this improvement can last for many years. To have long term results, the entire system must be relaxed and not just a part of it.

Pain can be caused in many different ways. Most of the every-day pain is muscle related and can be released with massage. Injury causes actual damage to the body and needs to have proper attention. Swelling is a part of normal reaction to over use or injury. When swelling is due to blockage of the blood's return to the heart, that problem needs to be addressed and may be due to tight muscles. Pain not caused by muscles should be referred to a medical doctor to check for problems that need medical attention.

Control Muscle Release Therapy looks at the muscles that control bone and muscles at a distance. The goal is to release the muscles easily and gently. The easiest way to release the whole body is to relax the key regions of the body.

To more easily understand what is likely happening in yourself, look at other people as they walk and notice how many hold the head in front of the body. This is so common that it is not noticed. It is a sign of tightness in the chest, neck and pelvis. This position progressively makes the upper back and shoulders tight. In time this can cause numbness in the hands and arms. Later it can contribute to restricted blood flow to the head. It is easiest if someone trained in checking for upper body tightness tests you and then can report to you what is actually going on in your body.

To check yourself for upper body tightness answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have upper back pain?
  2. Is it easy to turn your head to see traffic when driving?
  3. Can you turn your head to look straight over your shoulder?
  4. Can you tilt your head to the side (ear to the shoulder) without lifting your shoulder?
  5. Is your head normally pulled forward? Ask someone to check the normal seam line on your shirt and the center of your ear. The center of the ear should be over the seam line.
  6. Are your shoulders level?
  7. Do your feet turn outward?
  8. Can you take a really deep breath?
  9. Can you lift your arm straight up (arm next to the ear and straight up at the same time)?
  10. Do you have problems reaching for things over your head?

Each is an indication of some part of the upper body being tight and a strong indicator of long term pain and movement restriction.

In some people the neck and head bones or muscles pull bone of the upper back out of normal position. The bones in the upper back can not move to comfortable positions because the muscles will not allow it. This can be either too much curve forward in the neck or a neck that is too straight In these cases it is desirable to relax the head muscles first. Neck muscles can pull the head and force the entire spine. In these cases it is important determine how the body wants to release. If done in the order that the muscles want, then pain is minimized and the chance of long term release is improved.

Chiropractic adjustments are great at helping the spine to straighten side to side. The small muscles in the front of the rib cage can pull the ribs and pull the spine out of its normal position front to back. It is easier to relax the upper back when the front of the ribs are relaxed first. If you have to go back for chiropractic treatment each week, then it is likely because muscles are constantly pulling the bones out of place. Control Muscle Release Therapy can reduce your need to return to the chiropractor.

It is important to release each area that can control the upper back. If even one muscle is left tight, it increases the chances for upper back problem to show up again.

Free testing: If you want to be tested for any of these conditions call for a free 10- minute appointment. I work on and all the issues that I have talked about. If that interests you, call and schedule a regular one-hour appointment.

For more information or an appointment call Todd Pennington, LMT (503) 244-4427