Everybody has experienced upper back pain at some point in their lives. The tension you feel in this area may feel like a dull ache or sharp pain that worsens when you move around, but trigger point therapy for the acupressure points in your upper back can help with pain management.
So what are the acupressure points that relieve upper back pain? There are lots of acupressure points throughout the body, but applying pressure and focusing on points GB 21, GB 10, TE 3, LI 4, K 27, GV 14, and SI 15 results in upper back pain relief. For best results, consult with an acupuncture specialist.
Like low back pain, a lot of people also suffer from upper back pain that affects their quality of life. According to a study about thoracic spine pain, about 15% to 19% of the general population suffers from chronic back pain in the upper part of their spine. Many factors contribute to chronic pain in the upper back, such as a sedentary lifestyle, overworking, poor posture, and more.
Lots of treatment options are available for patients who want to get rid of their upper and lower back pain, but acupressure is still a popular choice for many. Acupressure for upper back pain relief comes from traditional Chinese medicine so it’s a natural alternative treatment that doesn’t require any pain medication or surgical procedure.
Acupressure works best for alleviating referred pain caused by myofascial pain syndrome. During the treatment, a qualified acupressure massage therapist uses their hand to apply pressure on myofascial trigger points. Acupressure reduces muscle pain, fixes muscle knots, relieves muscle tension, reduces inflammation, and increases blood circulation.
There are about 350 acupressure points throughout the body and along the meridians or energy pathways. Pressing each pressure point stimulates the flow of qi or vital energy to different organs, but it’s also helpful for relieving trigger point pain and releasing muscle knots.
If you want to alleviate upper back pain with acupressure, here are some of the most common acupressure points that qualified massage therapists target:
This acupressure point known as Jian Jing is mostly used to relieve neck pain, muscle knots, shoulder tension, headaches, and stiffness. It’s where the muscle fiber is most tense for people who have back or shoulder pain.
However, it’s crucial to remember to handle this acupressure point with extra care because it can induce labor in pregnant women. Trigger point GB 21 is found in the upper trapezius muscle, at the top of the shoulder blade, and about 2 fingers away from the base of the neck.
Acupressure point GB 10 is found about one thumb below the skull and another from the spine. Applying prolonged firm pressure on this point relieves the tension of the tight muscle in the area, resulting in pain relief in the neck and head.
This pressure point also stimulates the body’s hormonal functions for optimal pain relief and a relaxed mood. To experience the best upper back pain results, make sure to apply pressure to this trigger point for about 2 to 3 minutes and several times throughout the day.
This next point is located behind the knuckles between the 4th and 5th fingers (also known as the central islet). When this groove between the tendon is pressed, patients may experience relief from back pain, neck tension, shoulder tension, and temporal headaches. Once you find the TE 3, place the thumb of the free hand over it then apply strong pressure to the groove. Hold the position for about 4 to 5 seconds at a time then do it several times per day.
Another acupressure point found in the hand is the LI 4, which lies between the web of the index finger and thumb. You can find it by putting the thumb and index together to form a bump in the muscle. The highest point of the bump is the LI 4.
Applying pressure to the LI 4 regularly helps reduce stiffness and facial tension that accumulated throughout the day. It’s also helpful for alleviating upper back pain, headache, and toothache.
The K 27 acupressure point is a vital trigger point because it releases tension in the throat, chest, and upper back. It’s found about one fingertip below the collarbone on both sides of the body. Activating this point allows patients to breathe deeply and release endorphins, the hormones needed for relieving pain and reducing stress.
After finding the K 27, use the hand from the opposite side to firmly press the acupressure point for a few seconds. Rubbing the area while applying enough pressure also helps relieve some of the tension there.
Acupressure point GV 14 is found on the upper back, specifically at the shoulder level of the upper back’s midline. Applying pressure to this point results in relief from pain and stiffness around the shoulders and neck. It’s also extremely useful for patients suffering from cervical spondylosis.
During massage therapy, the therapist applies pressure on the GV 14 for about a minute as the patient stays seated. The pressure applied to this trigger point depends on the patient’s comfort and pain threshold.
The SI 15 is an acupressure point found in the middle region about 2 fingers width away from the patient’s spine. Applying pressure to this point eases neck pain and back pain caused by cervical spondylosis, a condition that involves wear and tear of the cartilage and bone.
The SI 15 is also helpful for easing stress, pain, and tension in the upper and middle back. But since patients can’t reach the SI 15 by themselves, they need the help of a qualified therapist to apply pressure on it using their thumb or knuckles for about 1 to 2 minutes.
During massage therapy, many therapists work on massaging the upper back to relieve tension and pain there. But with acupressure and reflexology, the provider may also apply pressure on other trigger points found through the body – such as those in the patient’s foot or hand.
Reflex areas related to the spine are found on each foot – whether it’s at the bottom of the foot or right at its edge. The area of the sole right before the base of your toes is a good place to start if you want to relieve upper back pain. Applying medium to strong pressure to the acupressure point Liv3 located between the biggest toe and the second toe can also alleviate back pain.
Similar to foot reflexology, hand reflexology is also a type of alternative medicine that involves applying pressure to different trigger points within the hands. As mentioned before, acupressure points TE 3 and LI 4 are the most useful ones for alleviating upper back pain.
Like acupressure, acupuncture is also a form of traditional Chinese medicine used to relieve pain and relax the body. The acupuncture points are also the same ones as the acupressure point system, but the main difference between them is that acupuncture uses hair-like needles while acupressure requires manual pressure from the fingertips, palms, or knuckles.
Both treatments are similar, but some patients may prefer one over the other. Acupressure is a lot less invasive than acupuncture, so it’s mostly recommended for patients who want more affordable and easier treatments. But if you have an acute condition that might be affected by either treatment, then it’s best to talk to a professional first before trying anything.
Since the internet has a lot of information about the location of acupressure points and what to do with them, many people wonder if it’s safe to perform self-administered acupressure therapy at home.
There aren’t many studies about the impact of at-home acupressure on upper back pain. But according to a study from the University of Michigan, performing acupressure on yourself helps alleviate chronic pain in the lower back – so it’s safe to assume that it also works for upper back pain.
But as with any at-home treatment for back pain, it’s crucial to follow professional directions for self-acupressure to avoid hurting yourself. It's also important to recognize when acupressure might not be working for you anymore, so you can consult a pain management specialist about your condition.
Both acupressure and acupuncture are successful go-to treatments for chronic back pain, especially if performed by professionals. According to a 2012 study, patients with chronic pain experience up to 50% improvement in their pain conditions. Some research even shows that traditional Chinese medicine like these two works better for back pain than some medications.
Although acupressure can be performed at home by following the right instructions, it’s better to leave acupuncture to professionals because they have the right experience and equipment to maximize the treatment’s benefits.
At Gramercy Pain Center, we recognize the effectiveness of acupuncture and acupressure in alleviating upper back pain for some patients. We also understand that these treatment options might not be the best for everyone, so we offer other kinds of treatments that are just as effective like:
Acupressure and acupuncture are both great treatment options for patients who want to relieve their upper back pain without surgery. There are lots of resources online about the locations of pressure points and what to do with them, but it’s still best to leave the procedure to professionals to avoid accidentally hurting yourself.
At Gramercy Pain Center, we want to help our patients return to their pain-free life as soon as possible. We have a team of pain doctors and spine specialists to determine the underlying cause of your upper back pain and recommend the best treatment option for you.
Call us today to book an appointment or know more about our services.