“I have left upper back pain,” you say, and my shoulder is painful, too.” What causes it? How can it be relieved? How can it be prevented in the future?
Left Upper Back Pain Is Not Uncommon
When you go to your physician with left upper back pain – and I hope you will see a physician for such pain – you will probably be asked about your shoulders. You will be examined for strains, sprains, tears, and inflammation in the shoulder joints.
If you remind your doctor that you are there for left upper back pain, you will probably be told that left upper back pain is often due to a problem in the complex shoulder joints.
Your Complex Shoulder Joints
Each shoulder joint is made up of:
- 2 bone ends – scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (upper arm bone)
- rotator cuff – 4 muscles that connect the scapula and humerus
- articular cartilage – a smooth substance that covers the bone – surface where they touch
- bursae (bursa is the singular) – lubricated sacs of tissue that reduce friction as muscles and tendons slide against each other
Left upper back pain does not seem so strange when you realize that of all your joints, your complex shoulder joint is most vulnerable to injury. This is because it has the greatest range of motion.
Left upper back pain due to shoulder problems may be caused by a variety of things. Some of the more common shoulder conditions include:
- Frozen shoulder
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
- Rotator cuff tears
- Shoulder separation
- Shoulder instability
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of left upper back pain associated with the shoulders. Degenerative arthritis causes left upper back pain as cartilage in the left shoulder “wears out” and allows bones to rub against each other. Degenerative arthritis (Osteoarthritis) usually occurs in people over 50 years of age. Family history often plays a part.
Left upper back pain with shoulder involvement can also be a result of bursitis. In bursitis, the bursae become swollen and inflamed. You may feel aching pain and stiffness in the area of the shoulder joint, or a burning left upper back pain that surrounds the whole shoulder joint. Your pain will likely be worse during and after activity. The left upper back and shoulder may be stiffer the next day.
In Part 2 of this article, we will look at additional causes of left upper back pain involving the shoulders