How Do I Get Rid of Upper Back Pain and Nausea?

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Upper back pain is one of the most common conditions people experience daily. In most cases, it goes away after adequate rest. But there are also instances when the pain becomes persistent. Even worse, nausea can accompany the pain. This makes it more difficult to perform at work or interact with friends and family. 

So how do you get rid of upper back pain and nausea? It takes a combination of lifestyle modifications, medical intervention, and non-surgical methods to achieve long-term relief from these conditions. Make sure to consult with a healthcare provider if you experience severe pain or trouble performing simple movements. 

Understanding the Causes of Upper Back Pain and Nausea

Although the back provides great support for the body, it’s also prone to injuries. The combination of upper back pain and nausea is unfortunately very common among adults. Sudden and sharp pain may be accompanied by nausea that becomes more pronounced during physical activity. Recognizing and treating the causes of your pain and nausea can help you achieve long-term relief.

1) Poor Lifestyle Habits

In many cases, upper back pain and nausea result from poor lifestyle habits. In the fast-paced world we live in, it’s easy to forget to eat 3 meals a day or get enough exercise. Some of the triggers for pain and nausea include:

  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Smoking
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Poorly cooked food
  • Stress
  • Poor hygiene 
  • Sedentary lifestyle

It’s also important to maintain an active lifestyle. Without regular and proper exercise, you’re at a higher risk of developing back pain. You don’t necessarily have to do strenuous physical activities—low-impact exercises like yoga, cycling, and swimming can do wonders for upper and mid back pain.

2) Medical Conditions

Back pain and nausea are also symptoms of other medical conditions. People with chronic illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease and chronic pancreatitis, are aware of their symptoms. They usually take maintenance medicine to help ease their back and stomach pain.

If you have persistent back pain and nausea but no history of previous illnesses, you may be dealing with an undiagnosed condition. Discomfort in other areas of the body can also be a sign of your body systems not working properly. If you also have sharp head pain or heart muscle issues, see your doctor for a full check-up right away. Alongside your back pain and nausea, these may be early heart attack symptoms. 

Digestive issues frequently manifest as upper back pain and nausea. In some cases, intestinal and abdominal pain can radiate to adjacent body parts. If you have issues with stomach acid, you may encounter nausea as a symptom of gastritis and some ulcers. 

Athletic injuries are also one of the most common causes of these conditions. If you recently played sports and experience continued pain and nausea, see a physical therapist or doctor for a proper assessment. You may have a muscle strain, shoulder blade sprain, or fracture without knowing it.

Adults over the age of 30 are prone to more body structural problems. As you age, the body takes longer to repair minor injuries, leading to issues with the vertebral discs, such as tearing or degeneration. Continued pain symptoms may also be a sign of spinal stenosis, scoliosis, or arthritis. 

Some of the most common conditions with back pain and nausea as symptoms include:

  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Pancreatic cancer

If you suspect you have these conditions, ask your medical provider for a test. You may be asked to undergo blood tests or radiologic imaging therapy to determine the cause of your pain. If suspected of complicated diseases like cancer, you may also be asked to undergo a CT scan for proper diagnosis. 

Pregnant women may also experience these issues as part of “morning sickness,” a condition common as the fetus grows inside the uterus. If you’re currently pregnant and are at least 6 months into the pregnancy, consult your doctor right away. Back and chest pain may be a sign of hypertension, which can cause complications for you and your child. 

Getting Rid of Upper Back Pain and Nausea

Blond woman receiving hot compress on upper back.

Once you recognize and understand the causes of your back pain and nausea, you can combine home remedies and lifestyle modifications for relief. While pursuing these methods, you can also contact a physical therapist or doctor to get more advice about your condition.

1) Home Remedies

There are several home remedies you can use to achieve short-term relief. For instance, drinking an electrolyte or oral rehydration solution can resolve nausea. Make sure to take small and steady sips, as chugging down the liquid may induce vomiting. 

You can also use a cold or warm compress to relieve pain. Alternating between heat and cold allows your back muscles to relax and loosen up. Most of the time, a cold compress should be applied first. You can use an ice pack covered in cloth for at least 3 days, then follow it up with a hot compress. Make sure to have intervals between each application.

You can also eat more Vitamin D-rich food, such as eggs, salmon, yogurt, and tofu. Drinking turmeric tea may also help relieve your nausea, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. If your body can’t properly absorb Vitamin D, you may look into supplements. However, you should notify your doctor as some formulations may cause adverse reactions.

2) Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle modifications can help you achieve long-term relief. Most home remedies offer a temporary solution to sudden pain and nausea but won’t solve the underlying causes of your condition. 

For instance, sleeping on your left side at night can exacerbate muscle imbalance and increase pain. And if you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, it may be time to increase your physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends 75 minutes of exercise per week. 

You don’t have to go to the gym and undergo circuit training right away. You can start by taking a walk around your neighborhood. For most adults, 10,000 steps are recommended per day. You can also look into yoga for back and shoulder pain. Some positions, such as the cat-cow, extended triangle, and sphinx pose, can help you correct poor posture and ease symptoms.

Once you’re starting to get the hang of exercise, you can begin incorporating planks, bridges, and back extensions into your routines. But if you’re already living an active and healthy lifestyle but still have back pain and nausea, you may be causing unnecessary stress to your spine. 

When lifting weights, make sure to lift with your legs and not your back. Hold heavy equipment close to your form and avoid twisting your torso when lifting. You may also be neglecting other muscles such as the abdomen; other exercises like pilates can help strengthen your core and decrease back pain.

Alcohol and nicotine are linked to heightened inflammation levels, which can interfere with the body’s day-to-day healing function. Both obesity and malnutrition contribute to chronic pain, including upper abdomen discomfort and back pain

Those with a higher body mass index are prone to ergonomic issues, which include neck pain and low back pain. Eating salty or oily food can also cause nausea due to the fat content. Additionally, a sodium-heavy diet may increase your risk for a heart attack. 

3) Medicine

If you’re experiencing back pain and nausea for the first time in a while, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to get rid of them. The most common ones include ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and acetaminophen. These are examples of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). While mostly effective, they may also exacerbate nausea in some people.

If you’re not responding well to NSAIDs, most people can tolerate paracetamol (Tylenol) well. Make sure to follow the prescribed dose in the packet. If you’re unsure about OTC medications, talk to your doctor about pursuing other treatments. They may prescribe you alternative drugs that also provide short-term relief for pain and nausea. 

4) Non-Surgical Methods

If you’ve exhausted all other methods, there are non-surgical therapies and treatments that you can pursue. Physical therapy (PT) is prescribed for people who have long-term pain. Physical therapists will work with you to create a customized treatment plan that targets the back.

There are also other treatment methods that you can look into, such as steroid injections, cryoablation, and disc decompression. You can talk to a doctor to discuss these options as complementary therapies to your PT. 

Other forms of treatment include: 

  • Nerve blocks
  • Platelet-rich plasma
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Peripheral nerve stimulation
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Tenjet tenotomy
  • Intrathecal therapy
  • Stem cell therapy

Manage Your Pain and Nausea With Treatments from Gramercy Pain Center

Living with chronic pain isn’t easy. It can impact your work performance, social interactions, and overall quality of life. Besides maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, it helps to have a healthcare provider that helps you manage your back and spine pain. 

At Gramercy Pain Center, we offer a wide range of surgical and non-surgical treatment options for upper abdominal pain, lower back pain, and thoracic spine issues. We have a team of well-trained and experienced doctors who can work with you to regain your strength and achieve long-term relief. For inquiries, you can give us a call at 732-788-0349.

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