Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Everything You Need to Know About Upper Right Back Pain and Its Possible Causes

Everything You Need to Know About Upper Right Back Pain and Its Possible Causes

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with experts estimating over 80% of the United States population experiencing some level of back pain in their lifetime. More than 264 million workdays are lost due to back pain, costing Americans over $50 billion in healthcare costs each year.


Back pain can be mild and barely noticeable or cause throbbing, excruciating pain. It can slowly build up over time or come on without warning. Whatever the cause for back pain, it can be debilitating and wreak havoc on your quality of life. 


Upper right back pain is known as thoracic back pain, referring to the upper right quadrant of the rib cage area up to the base of the neck. If you’re experiencing issues in this section of your back, be it mild or crippling, read on for more information on possible causes, treatment, and prevention.   

Possible Causes of Upper Right Back Pain and Treatment

Muscle Injury

Too often, simple overuse or exhaustion of the back muscles can cause pain. Such things as shoveling snow or playing sports can leave you with strained or injured upper right back muscles. You may feel sudden spasms in the area, a dull ache, or sharp shooting pain when you move your right arm. 


Treatments for this type of injury are most commonly at-home remedies involving rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory pain relievers. 

Herniated Disc

Pain due to a herniated disc, commonly known as a slipped disc, occurs when a disc in your cervical or upper thoracic spine ruptures and causes pressure on your spinal nerves. Lifting heavy objects or whiplash can cause this issue and you’ll know by the tingling, numbness, or pain in the area or right arm when coughing or sneezing. 


Anti-inflammatories, heat, rest, and stretching are the recommended treatments for acute mild pain. For chronic or more severe pain, a doctor may recommend surgery or steroid injections.


When the protective cartilage that cushions the joints of your vertebrae wears away or breaks down, osteoarthritis presents itself as a grating sensation, swelling, stiffness, and bone spurs. This disease is caused by general wear and tear but factors such as obesity, older age, and repeated stress on the joint can increase your risks. 


Treatment is effective in relieving the pain and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis, but there is no cure. At-home remedies include exercise, icing the area, and medications. A doctor may recommend physical therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, or surgery.


A condition in which bones become very weak and are at a higher risk of breakage, leading to a spinal injury known as a vertebral compression fracture. You may experience a weakened hand grip, loss of height, and/or increased pain when standing or walking. 


Treatment for this disease includes a healthy diet, exercise, and consumption of bone-strengthening medications and supplements recommended by a doctor. 

Spinal Fracture

A vehicular accident, fall from a considerable height, or any high-impact trauma can cause thoracic or cervical fractures. Marked by pinching of, or punctures to, the spinal cord or nerves, this type of injury requires immediate emergency attention by a licensed health professional. Weakness and tingling up to paralysis are possible symptoms of a spinal fracture. 

Referred Pain

It’s possible for your upper right back pain to not be associated with your back at all. Instead, conditions involving the gallbladder, such as gallstones, can factor into your pain and discomfort. Lung issues can also cause upper right back pain given that the lungs are located near the upper back. Pneumonia and lung cancer are possible causes of this type of lung-associated pain. 


Treatments vary due to the complexity of this type. Your back pain will likely be one of several symptoms, so speak to a doctor to determine a treatment plan.  


Believe it or not, stress can cause you to experience mild to moderate back pain. When in a stressful situation, your body activates its fight-or-flight response, regardless of whether it needs to or not. This phenomenon triggers muscle tightness, which, after some time, will foster upper right back pain. Symptoms associated with this type of pain include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and other factors related to stress and anxiety. 


Recommended treatments for stress-related upper back pain include stretching, exercise, and consistent relaxation. A healthy diet is also beneficial in alleviating these symptoms. 

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial Pain Syndrome, also known as MPS, is a chronic pain disorder affecting the fascia (the connective tissue covering the muscles). Caused by repeated injury or overuse that sets off trigger points, this condition can target one muscle or a muscle group. Symptoms include tender spots in the muscle, pain that persists or worsens, and muscle spasms.


Your at-home treatment plans should consist of light exercise and gentle stretching. You should also see a physical therapist regularly and incorporate massages into your routine. Medications such as muscle relaxers and pain blockers can be given based on a doctor’s recommendations.



Returning to a normal healthy lifestyle is imperative and, although prevention is not guaranteed, you need to do your part to safeguard against upper back pain. Returning pain may lead to worsening symptoms or cause additional back conditions. 


These maintenance measures should be taken to counteract and hopefully eliminate recurring pain. Prevention should include a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, regular exercise, and stretching routines. Avoid lifting heavy objects and be mindful of proper posture. Take regular breaks from repetitive tasks that put a strain on your back for extended periods such as sitting or shoveling snow. 



When we experience back pain, it can prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. Your quality of life shouldn’t suffer, so if you’re experiencing any symptoms of upper back pain, call us at New York Spine Specialist. 


Our dedicated team of physicians, physicians’ assistants, and surgeons can help in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of your upper back pain. We provide customized treatment plans to get you back to living a full life without the distress of pain. Contact us now so we can start you on the road to recovery.