Understanding Upper Back Pain and Dizziness

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If you experience both upper back pain and dizziness, you're not alone. 

For many people, these frustrating symptoms occur together and can greatly impact quality of life.

Figuring out the causes of upper back pain and dizziness is the first step toward effective management.

Upper back pain, commonly referred to as upper back strain, has numerous possible causes. The most common involve overuse or misuse of your upper back muscles and ligaments.

Carrying heavy loads, sitting hunched over desks for long periods and poor sleep posture are common culprits. Underlying issues like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylosis and osteoarthritis can also result in chronic upper back pain.

Upper Back Pain Often Spreads to Neck, Head and Arms

Upper back pain often radiates to other areas, particularly the neck and head. This is due to interconnected spinal nerves that travel through the upper back and neck.

As a result, upper back pain frequently causes headaches, neck tension and pain that shoots into the arms and shoulders. It can make even simple daily tasks agonizing and impact sleep quality.

Dizziness that arises together with upper back pain may indicate an underlying condition like cervicogenic dizziness.

This occurs when dysfunction in your neck and upper back disrupts signals from the vestibular system, resulting in dizziness. Poor posture can also contribute by negatively impacting proprioception - your body's spatial awareness.

By understanding potential links between upper back pain and dizziness, you can work with healthcare providers to determine the most likely causes of your specific symptoms

An accurate diagnosis is key for designing a personalized treatment plan that gets to the root of your issues and provides lasting relief.

Exploring the Connection Between Upper Back Pain and Dizziness

For many people who experience both upper back pain and dizziness, the two symptoms may in fact be connected

One potential issue is cervicogenic dizziness caused by neck dysfunction that irritates the vestibular system.

Cervicogenic dizziness refers to dizziness and vertigo triggered by abnormal biomechanics or pathology in the cervical spine (neck) and upper back. 

Studies have found that 60-80% of people with cervicogenic dizziness also report some degree of neck or upper back pain.

The mechanism behind cervicogenic dizziness involves disruption of the vestibular system in the inner ear due to neck dysfunction. The vestibular system is responsible for our sense of balance and spatial orientation. 

When the cervical spine is impaired, it can alter neural signals that feed into the vestibular system, resulting in symptoms of dizziness.

Proprioception, which refers to unconscious perception of body position, can also be negatively impacted by poor posture or strained upper back muscles. 

This distortion of proprioceptive input, in addition to disruption of the vestibular system, further contributes to issues with balance, spatial orientation and dizziness.

Maintaining proper posture and neck stability through exercises can help minimize cervicogenic dizziness by improving alignment of the cervical spine. 

This restores more normal functioning of the vestibular system and enhances proprioceptive input, potentially resolving or reducing dizziness caused by upper back issues.

By improving cervical alignment, posture and movement patterns, individuals can potentially alleviate their dizziness symptoms caused by upper back dysfunction.

Diagnosing and Treating Cervicogenic Dizziness

For individuals experiencing both upper back pain and episodes of dizziness, an accurate diagnosis of cervicogenic dizziness is important. A proper evaluation can determine whether dysfunction in the cervical spine is the source of dizziness and identify the best treatment options.

Signs and symptoms of cervicogenic dizziness include:

  • Dizziness that is triggered or worsened by neck movements or certain positions
  • Stiffness or pain in the neck or upper back muscles
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances like blurred vision

To diagnose cervicogenic dizziness, healthcare providers will conduct a physical exam focusing on the cervical spine and neck. They will assess range of motion and check for:

  • Muscle spasm or tension in the neck and shoulders
  • Tenderness over the cervical spine
  • Loss of balance with certain neck positions

Diagnostic tools may also be used:

  • Vestibular function tests to evaluate the inner ear and balance system
  • Imaging scans to rule out other potential causes of dizziness like a brain tumor or vertebrobasilar insufficiency

Treatment options for cervicogenic dizziness focus on:

Physical therapy to improve mobility of the cervical spine through manual therapies and exercises to strengthen neck muscles
Chiropractic care to realign the vertebrae in the cervical spine and release tension in soft tissues

Lifestyle modifications like:

  • Avoiding activities that trigger symptoms
  • Maintaining proper neck posture while sitting and sleeping
  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques

For severe or chronic cervical dizziness, a referral to an ENT doctor may be needed to rule out ear disorders as a potential contributor. In some cases, mild anti vertigo medications may offer short-term relief of symptoms.

While most cases of cervicogenic dizziness can be managed with conservative care, seeking medical attention early helps prevent neck pain from worsening or dizziness from becoming debilitating.

A customized treatment plan tailored to an individual's specific issues and medical history often results in the best outcomes.

Other Possible Causes of Dizziness with Upper Back Pain

While cervicogenic dizziness is a common cause of dizziness associated with upper back pain, there are other potential reasons for these uncomfortable symptoms occurring together. Two possibilities include osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.

Osteoarthritis of the cervical spine, also called neck osteoarthritis, involves the wear and tear of the joints within the neck that connect vertebrae. It commonly affects the facet joints and spinal discs. Symptoms include:

  • Chronic neck pain, especially with neck movements
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion in the neck
  • Tenderness over the cervical spine

As osteoarthritis progresses, it can lead to dizziness due to narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of spinal nerves and blood vessels. This disrupts blood flow to the brain as well as proprioceptive and vestibular signals, resulting in balance issues.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, often including the upper back, and difficulty processing painful sensations

Other symptoms involve:

  • Fatigue and sleep disturbances
  • Memory issues and cognitive difficulties
  • Mood changes like anxiety and depression

Research suggests up to 50% of fibromyalgia patients experience dizziness and balance problems. 

While the exact mechanisms linking fibromyalgia with dizziness are unclear, possible explanations include:

  • Disrupted blood flow to the brain
  • Abnormal sensory input from joints, muscles and connective tissues
  • Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system

For individuals with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, managing upper back pain is crucial for alleviating associated dizziness. Both conditions benefit from a multifaceted approach including:

ApproachDescription or Suggestions
MedicationsPrescribed medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, and muscle relaxants can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Physical therapyEngage in physical therapy sessions that include exercises, stretches, and posture corrections specifically targeting the upper back. These can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce pain.
Assistive devicesConsider using assistive devices like braces or supports to provide stability and alleviate strain on the upper back. Additionally, make ergonomic adjustments to workstations or daily activities to maintain proper posture.
Psychological interventionsSeek psychological interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or counseling to address mood symptoms like anxiety and depression, which can indirectly alleviate dizziness.
Lifestyle modificationsMake lifestyle modifications that include weight loss, stress reduction techniques (e.g., meditation, relaxation exercises), and quitting smoking. These can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being, potentially reducing dizziness.

While the causes may differ, upper back pain is often a common thread that links dizziness with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and cervicogenic dizziness. 

Comprehensive management of upper back pain through medical care and lifestyle changes can help improve both pain levels and dizziness for improved quality of life.

Managing Upper Back Pain and Dizziness

If you suffer from both upper back pain and dizziness, there are proactive steps you can take to better manage your symptoms and improve your overall health.

Even without a definitive diagnosis, certain self-care strategies can help:

Strengthening and stretching exercises can:

  • Relieve muscle tension in your upper back and neck
  • Improve posture and reduce strain on the cervical spine
  • Enhance stability of the neck to minimize dizziness
  • Strengthen deep neck flexor muscles that support the vertebrae

Focus on:

  • Cervical rotation and lateral flexion stretches
  • Isometric neck exercises
  • Full-body workouts to boost overall fitness

Ergonomic adjustments at work and home can:

  • Provide neck and upper back support using:
  • Pillows
  • Chin supports
  • Height-adjustable desks and chairs

Encourage good posture through positioning of:

  • Computer monitors
  • Phone and book holders
  • Reduce prolonged static positions that can trigger symptoms

Other strategies:

  • Avoid alcohol and smoking as they worsen dizziness
  • Manage stress through meditation, yoga or counseling
  • Set sleep priorities like a comfortable mattress and moderate caffeine
  • Get regular chiropractic care or massage therapy
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers as needed but in moderation

For individuals experiencing debilitating symptoms, more intensive interventions may be required. 

Seeking medical advice enables accurate diagnosis and personalized treatments based on each patient's particular issues,health history and priorities.

This approach often leads to the best outcomes by directly addressing the root causes of upper back pain and dizziness.

While self-care strategies can provide some relief, professional medical care remains critical for properly diagnosing and effectively treating complex conditions that involve both upper back pain and dizziness. 

A team-based approach incorporating multiple modalities often yields the greatest benefit.

Finally See Relief from Upper Back Pain and Dizziness

You deserve relief from the endless cycle of upper back pain and dizziness that disrupts your everyday life. 

The experts at Gramercy Pain Center can help you regain mobility, stability and confidence - for good.

Our experienced team of physicians, physiotherapists and massage therapists utilizes a comprehensive and integrated approach to treat the root cause of your upper back pain and dizziness.

We will perform a thorough evaluation of your neck, spine, vestibular system and neurological function to accurately diagnose the source of your issues. Then we will develop a customized treatment plan that may include:

  • Specialized physical therapy exercises focused on neck stabilization and posture correction
  • Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy to release tension in muscles and connective tissues
  • Interventional procedures such as epidural steroid injections or PRP injections
  • Usage of the latest diagnostic tools and technology
  • Prescription medications to manage pain and inflammation

All of our treatments aim to get you back to doing the activities you love while effectively managing your symptoms for the long term.

If you're ready to finally say goodbye to upper back pain and dizziness, contact Gramercy Pain Center today

Our patient coordinators can answer your questions and help you schedule an appointment with the most appropriate specialist.

You don't have to keep suffering in silence. 

Take the first step toward real relief - call Gramercy Pain Center now at 732-788-0349!

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