Pulled upper back muscle: Causes, symptoms, treatment, and exercises

pulled upper back muscleSuffering from a pulled upper back muscle can be an agonizing experience. These types of back injuries often occur due to a sudden or unexpected movement of the upper body, especially when lifting heavy weights without stretching.

Medical professionals and health care experts believe that pulled upper back muscles occur due to the gradual tightening of muscles as a result of overuse. This can lead to persistent muscle spasms that can compromise blood circulation and cause eventual muscle weakness.


In this article, we will discuss how to treat a pulled upper back muscle as well as what the most common causes for its development are.

Also read: What is a pulled abdominal muscle? Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Pulled upper back muscle: Causes and symptoms

Strained or pulled upper back muscles can happen because of:

  • Improper posture
  • Overuse of the back muscles
  • Bad conditioning
  • Not warming up enough before beginning strenuous exercise
  • Sudden loss of motor control leading to strain, possibly due to muscle fatigue
  • Heavyweight lifting
  • Participating in strenuous exercises such as tennis, golf, and rowing, which can lead to chronic muscle strain due to repetitive movements.

Symptoms of pulled upper back muscles may include:

  • Muscle spasm
  • Limited range of motion or a gradual decrease in muscle movement
  • Muscle soreness
  • Sudden back pain
  • Straining and discoloration of the skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tension felt in the upper back muscles
  • Feelings of knots on skin palpation

Also read: Muscle fatigue: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

How to treat a pulled upper back muscle

Ice and heat therapy: This may be done by simply applying ice to the affected joint to help reduce pain and swelling. Using an ice pack is ideal, but ice cubes in a towel or a bag of frozen vegetables will also do the trick. It is recommended to ice the affected part of the body for about 15 to 20 minutes every two to four hours for the first 48 hours. After this time, applying heat to the area with a hot water bottle or a heating pad in 20-minute intervals will encourage healing by promoting blood flow.

Massage therapy: Back muscle strains are likely to result in the formation of tender knots or trigger points causing pain and discomfort, but it can be easily remedied by applying pressure to them through massage. It is advised to use good judgment when performing any kind of massage. Massage promotes the release of feel-good endorphins and increases blood circulation.

Posture correction while seated: Whenever you sit for an extended period of time, following these tips will help prevent back pain:

  • Have your shoulders positioned over your hips
  • Keep your elbows and knees bent at 90-degree angles
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor
  • Your computer monitor should be at eye level
  • Your head should be positioned so that your ears are aligned with your shoulders

Also read: Muscle knots: Causes and treatment

Exercises for pulled upper back muscle

W & Y stretch:

  • Begin by standing up with your back straight
  • Now make a “W” shape with your arms (bending them to about 90-degree angles with elbows into your sides and squeezing your shoulders together. Hold this position for two breaths.
  • Then make a “Y” shape with your arms, extending them up above your head. Hold this position for another two breaths before bringing your arms down in starting position.
  • Repeat this exercise five times

Eagle pose:

  • Begin by standing up with your back straight
  • Interlace your arms so that your elbows are raised up in a 90-degree angle and arms crossed in an “X’ shape. You should able to clap your hands together in this position.
  • Raise your elbows so that they align with your chin
  • Hold this position for 15 seconds and do three sets

Side stretch:

  • Begin in standing position with your feet positioned shoulder width apart
  • Now, using your right hand, grab the opposite side of your head and bring it down towards your right shoulder. Hold this position for about 20–30 seconds.
  • Now repeat for the opposite side
  • Do this exercise about three times per side

How to prevent a pulled upper back muscle

It is not always possible to prevent pulled upper back muscles as they tend to happen when you least expect it. However, there are a couple of things that you can do to decrease your risk. By keeping the following suggestions in mind, you can be certain you are doing the best you can to promote your well-being.

Maintain a healthy body weight: Carrying extra weight can put increased strain on your back muscles, potentially resulting in muscle strain.

Wear appropriate footwear: This will ensure that your risk of falling is minimalized. Additionally, by keeping your floors dry and non-slippery – as well as keeping your home clutter free – falling incidences are likely to become reduced.

Quit smoking: Cigarettes are a major cause of preventable disease and can affect blood flow throughout the body.

Stretch before exercise: This helps warm up the muscles to prevent strains.

Know your limits: Don’t overdo yourself when working out, as this will increase the risk of injury. A trained physical therapist can help you figure out a good routine for you.

Eat healthily: By avoiding foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value, you can ensure you are keeping your bones and muscles strong.

Exercise regularly: This will help promote bone strength and muscle growth as well as optimal flexibility.

Be cautious when lifting heavy objects: Be sure to keep your back straight and bend at the knees. Do not twist while lifting heavy objects, as this will promote injury.

If you are suffering from persistent muscle strain or need some assistance performing exercises, seeking out your doctor or a trained physical therapist can help you find the best therapies for your particular condition.



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Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.



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