Upper back muscle pain that occurs after the Thanksgiving football game with your brothers, or that develops after spending the weekend planting your spring garden, is most likely muscle strain or sprain.
Technically a strain refers to muscles and tendons, and sprain refers to ligaments. Both refer to when the muscle, tendon, or ligament is stretched to the point where fibers start to tear. This can happen when a cold, or even a warmed up, muscle or joint is stretched beyond its limit. It may also occur with repetitive use injuries, when muscle fibers fatigue, they tear more easily.
"rest, ice, compression, and elevation"
Initial treatment for this type of injury should include rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Gentle stretches that move the shoulder and shoulder blade can help reduce stiffness. Icing the area, 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off, will reduce blood flow, and help to minimize swelling.
Never place ice directly on the skin, placing a towel or light fabric between the ice and skin will prevent frostbite. Using a bag of frozen vegetables makes a great cold compress.
Compression, or wrapping the injury with an elastic wrap, and keeping it at the same level as the heart, will also help control swelling. An over the counter anti-inflammatory will help reduce inflammation, and reduce the pain.
If you are having severe pain, point tenderness in a specific area, or other more severe symptoms, you should see your doctor. You may have a fracture or other more serious injuries.
Postural problems will cause upper back muscle pain when the muscles are overloaded for extended periods of time. In a normal upright posture, the head is balance above the shoulders, and the shoulders are balanced above the hips. All the muscles have to do is maintain the balance.
"places increased load on the muscles"
When your neck is flexed forward, the weight of your head (about 15 pounds), places increased load on the muscles of the upper back. Then when you lean forward, hunched over a desk, the additional leverage places increased load on the muscle. When you stay there all day, or all weekend, the muscles begin to rebel, causing pain and aching.
Many times this can be corrected just by being aware of the problem. Be conscious of the position of your head. Is it above your shoulders? Think about it and check periodically through the day. It can be helpful to place a bit of tape across the face of your watch. Then every time you look at your watch, you are reminded to check your posture.
"habit of bad posture"
Sometimes people can fall into the habit of bad posture over years; this can lead to chronic back pain and be more difficult to change. Ask your spouse, or other friend, to look at your profile from the side. Are your ears above your shoulders? Or are they out in front of your shoulders? Can you keep your head straight (looking straight ahead) and pull it back so that your ears are above your shoulders?
posture is that the upper back muscles that support your head get stretched out and weak. While the muscles and ligaments at the front of your neck get short and tight. If you are unable to keep your head straight, and get your ears above your shoulders, you may need to see a physical therapist. They can teach you special exercises to strengthen the upper back muscles, and realign your posture.