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Upper and Middle Back Pain - Treatment Overview

There are many treatments for upper and middle back pain. What works for someone else may not help you. Work with your doctor to find what is best for you.

Treatment for upper and middle back pain is based on:

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  • How bad your symptoms are.
  • How much your symptoms prevent you from doing your daily tasks.
  • How well other treatments have worked.

Treatment for mild to moderate pain

In most cases, people with mild to moderate upper and middle back pain can manage their symptoms with:

Treatment if back pain gets worse

If your back pain doesn't get better or it gets worse, your doctor may recommend:

  • Prescription medicines, such as opioids, to help reduce pain.
  • Muscle relaxants to help reduce pain and muscle tension and improve mobility.
  • Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and duloxetine, to help treat long-lasting (chronic) back pain.
  • Steroid shotsSteroid shots to help reduce swelling and relieve pressure on nerves and nerve roots. But there is little evidence showing that these shots can help control back pain.

In some cases, a back brace may be used to support the bones in the spine after a fracture.

Surgery is seldom used to treat upper and middle back pain. If your doctor recommends surgery, the type will depend on the problem you have. Before you decide to have surgery, it's a good idea to get a second opinion from a different doctor. Surgery choices may include:

  • Kyphoplasty or vertebroplastyKyphoplasty or vertebroplasty. Bone cement is injected through a needle into the broken vertebrae to try to stabilize the bone. These surgeries are not done very often, because most fractures heal on their own. And there is no evidence that kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty are better than nonsurgical treatment.1
  • Herniated disc removalHerniated disc removal. It removes the portion of the disc that is herniated and pushing into the spinal canal. In most cases, herniated discs that occur in the upper and middle back are small and don't need surgery. But you may need surgery for a large herniated disc that presses on the spinal cord.
  • Spinal decompression for stenosis. It widens the spinal canal that has narrowed, and it relieves pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. This procedure is not done very often, because spinal stenosis in the upper and middle back is rare.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 16, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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