While less common than lower back pain, there are many different causes for the upper back pain that often settles at the base of your neck or between your shoulder blades. While these areas are highly susceptible to stiffness and tension, thoracic spine pain can be caused by poor posture, muscle strain, injury, overuse and repetitive bending or twisting. Unless back pain is persistent and fails to improve within a few days or weeks, you can usually find relief by practicing some basic, self-help techniques.
Exercise and stretch your muscles to relieve high back pain. Regular exercise, such as swimming, can strengthen the muscles in the upper back and help prevent muscle strain. The large muscles in the shoulder area often contribute to back pain; stretch both your spine and shoulders. Bring up one arm over your head and hold the position for at least one minute. Repeat the exercise two or three times on each side to stretch tight muscles. For another upper back stretch, pull your shoulder blades together and then relax them.
Get a deep tissue massage to release tension caused by stress or muscle strains. You can also apply self-massage techniques to relax tension in your neck and shoulder region. Massage both sides of your neck by applying gentle pressure with your hands. Once the muscles in your neck begin to soften, slightly increase the pressure. Massage each shoulder, working your way from front to back.
Get an ultrasound treatment to increase your blood circulation and reduce muscle spasms. In many cases, upper back pain occurs in the area between your shoulder blades. An ultrasound sends sound waves deep into these muscles. The heat enhances circulation by bringing more oxygen to the tender area, and helps the soft muscle tissue heal. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist for cold therapy, in which a cold pack is used to slow circulation and reduce inflammation.
Learn proper breathing techniques to relieve the tightness in your tense muscles. Exhale completely as you breathe. Avoid forcing the air out of your lungs. Concentrate on relaxing with each breath that you exhale. Count to ten as you breathe out, before breathing in again through your nose.
Relieve upper backache through acupressure. Acupressure promotes increases circulation, relieves pain and reduces stress. Use acupressure as a self-help technique to relieve tension in your shoulders. Place your left hand on the back of your right shoulder near the base of the neck. Use your right thumb to press each fingernail on your left hand for one minute. Reverse sides.
Alter bad habits that may be causing your upper back pain. Correct poor posture and avoid repetitive motion, such as excessive typing at a computer. Sinus headaches, TMJ and temporomandibular joint disorder may also cause upper back pain.