Common Upper Back Pain Questions

Reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

My upper back hurts, but the pain just started. It doesn't hurt enough to go to the doctor. What can I do at home to help it?

When should I call the doctor?
Use your best judgment—if the pain persists for more than 2 weeks, consider scheduling an appointment. If the pain begins to interfere with your daily activities (if it's hard to go to work, for example), you may want to see a doctor. While many cases of upper back pain are caused by muscle strain or poor posture, it is possible that there's a more serious condition at the root of your pain.

Will I need surgery?
Depending on what is causing your upper back pain, you may need spine surgery. However, just 5% of patients with back pain actually require surgery. Before recommending surgery, your doctor will most likely have you try other treatment options, such as physical therapy or medication.

What types of surgery are used for back pain?
There are many types of surgery used for upper back pain because there are many causes of upper back pain. If you do require surgery, your surgeon will recommend a surgery that's best for your pain. Some common surgeries used for back pain are:

However, this is just a sampling of possible surgeries for upper back pain. To read about other surgeries, you can read Surgery for Upper Back Pain.

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Physical Therapy to Relieve Upper Back Pain