Tips for controlling upper back pain

By | February 11, 2015

As a dentist, you do many procedures that require a close visual field and fine, controlled movements of your hands for long periods of time.

Center for Professional SuccessThese procedures also require sustained postures and twisting and bending of your neck and upper back.  These postures and movements can place stress on your upper back and neck, contributing to the development of or aggravation of upper back pain.  This can impacts your well-being and the efficiency and productivity of your office.

As always, consult a physician for any persistent problem, but here are some tips for controlling upper back pain from the ADA Center for Professional Success.

  • Maintain proper posture.
  • Use magnification, such as loupes, and adequate lighting to bring your field of vision closer and decrease the extent to which your neck is held forward and flexed down.
  • Position the patient’s head at a level that gives you access to the oral cavity while being able to hold your shoulders in a relaxed, neutral position (rather than a hunched up position) and you are able to hold your elbows at about a ninety degree or less flexion.
  • When possible, use chair arms to support your upper arm or forearm when doing fine, precision work with your hands.
  • Wear properly fitting gloves.
  • Keep equipment in good working order.  Improperly maintained equipment can cause you to use unnecessary pressure and extra time when performing certain procedures.
  • Position equipment within easy reach and visibility to reduce repeated twisting of your neck or torso.
  • Take a break in between or during long or difficult cases.
  • When possible, set up your schedule to rotate long, difficult cases with short, easier cases.

Seek medical consultation for upper back pain, especially in the following instances:

  • After recent significant trauma, such as a fall, a motor vehicle accident or other such accidents.
  • When sleep is disrupted or pain is worse at night.
  • With a history of prolonged steroid use.
  • With a history of osteoporosis.
  • With a recent history of infection or a temperature over 100 degrees F.
  • Numbness or tingling in arms.
  • Severe, sudden headache.
  • Dizziness.

To read the full CPS article, which includes information on symptoms and causes, click here. The article is only available to ADA members.

Other resources on the topic include the American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, American Physical Therapy Association.

61 thoughts on “Tips for controlling upper back pain

  1. Christophe Carlier

    Thank you for sharing these tips for controlling upper back pain. I have never had any serious issues, but I stay seated for long periods of time while I am at work and I have had some recent pain because of this. Like you said, “maintain proper posture and take a break in between long cases.” If it continues to worsen, I may have to see a chiropractor to correct the problem. Thanks again!

    Reply
  2. DoloresB

    Back pain really isn’t all that fun. If you are planning on going on vacation it’s important to be careful so you don’t have any back pain while on the trip. I think you bring up a good point to take a break and stretch. That’s always good for your body.

    Reply
  3. Ewan @Massage Equipments

    Nice and informative piece of content, actually when someone comes to my shop to get a massager for the upper back pain I first advise him/her to take rest for a week or two, because most of them are job holders who sit in offices from 9 to 5, they think that massage or massage chairs can resolve their issues but if they aren’t having proper rest, no massage can help them in long term. Your tips are really great, I’ll point my customers to your guide for better guidance. BTW I think these https://www.massagetut.com/best-shiatsu-massage-chairs/ Shiatsu massage chairs are best for upper and lower back pains.

    Reply
  4. Dr. Steffany Mohan

    Ideas shared by you for controlling upper back pain are really effective and helpful. Being an expert, I would suggest that the most common cause of upper back pain is a muscle strain or mild arthritis. There are other conditions outside the spine that can also manifest as upper back pain, such as gastrointestinal problems or kidney stones. This can be treated with cold and sometimes alternating heat application will help.

    Reply
  5. David

    Wow man awesome article. Your post has inspired me to take action with my back problem. I’ve had it for over 5 years now but have always neglected it because I thought it was common for my age.

    I’ve now started implementing the techniques for back problems and hopefully, the pain will start to go.

    Wish me luck.

    Reply
    1. Evelyn Hess

      Hey, David.

      Try the Alexander Technique. You learn how to shed excess muscular tension in your back, neck and shoulders. Great for anyone who has to hold themselves in positions, like dentists.

      Reply
  6. Richard @Massagetheatre

    True, a dentist is very susceptible to backpain as one needs to keep on bending in order to fix their patients teeth. A good remedy will be to use a chair and keep themselves at level while fixing their patients teeth or to use a massage equipment frequently that can be found here. http://massagetheatre.com

    Reply
  7. Rick Namer

    Are there any dentist chairs that would allow me to work on my patients standing up? I think that should alleviate a bunch of the problems in my back.

    Reply
  8. Simon Brooks

    Thanks for the great advice, my wife has been suffering from some pretty bad back pain lightly and this might help while we search for a chiropractor for her. She’s been thinking about doing some yoga to help relieve the pain and a lot of these tips could go along with that. I think she could especially use some of the advice you give about how to properly strech and twist the muscles in the back.

    Reply
  9. Angie C. Alvarado

    Thanks for making this post. Interesting points. I, along with many people I know suffer from back pain on a regular basis. Interestingly over the years, I’ve noticed my own back getting worse. Hopefully ill figure out what the working solution for me is.

    Reply
  10. Lui B.

    Great tips! If there’s anything I can add, that would be keeping a healthy lifestyle. Everyone, not just dentists, should remember that we all age, and so are our spine. Have a healthy diet rich in calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Maintain a healthy weight and do regular exercises. Also, one good stretching exercise that I know can help relieve upper back pain is by tucking your chin down and linking your arms together as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold the position for a while (count up to five). Repeat several times a day. Hope these help!

    Reply
  11. Ivy Baker

    This is some really good information about upper back pain. I liked that you talked about maintaining a proper posture. That is something I have a huge problem keeping my posture in good shape. I wonder if an orthopedic doctor could help me with that.

    Reply
  12. Callum Palmer

    I’ve been dealing with some pretty bad back pain lately, so it is nice to have some tips on how to deal with it. At the very least, some of these tips can definitely help me while I am looking around for a contractor. In particular, I’m going to have to try adjusting my computer at work so that I don’t have to lean down so far when I am working on it.

    Reply
  13. Heather

    Dental work may be most uncomfortable for the patient, but the dentist can experience just as much discomfort if they don’t tailor their work environment to their needs. Great tips!

    Reply
  14. rohan patel

    Great tips! If there’s anything I can add, that would be keeping a healthy lifestyle. Everyone, not just dentists, should remember that we all age, and so are our spine. Have a healthy diet rich in calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Maintain a healthy weight and do regular exercises. Also, one good stretching exercise that I know can help relieve upper back pain is by tucking your chin down and linking your arms together as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold the position for a while (count up to five). Repeat several times a day. Hope these help! https://massagehomeland.com/best-zero-gravity-massage-chair/

    Reply
  15. Persephone de Vito

    It was helpful when you said that I should seek medical help if the back pain was caused by a recent trauma, such as a fall, vehicular accident, or other accidents. I have been involved in a light car accident last month, and since then I have been suffering from recurring upper back pain. A friend of mine said that I should try seeking chiropractic care when I asked him about what I should do. It might be a good idea to follow his tip. Thanks!

    Reply
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  17. Allen Brown

    For a while. I was looking for something like this. I bookmarked your page, and am sure to visit over and over again. Meanwhile, keep rocking.

    Reply
  18. body massagers

    You can also try massaging by body massagers like hand held or massage chairs,the pain will automatically go,good points though you have given.

    Reply
  19. Thomas Fluker

    I got redirected to the full CPS article and some great tips were share there. I believe that massage chairs can also greatly relieve the upper and lower back pain. I recently read some reviews about these chairs here: https://www.10machines.com/best-massage-chairs-reviews/
    They can significantly help get rid of the pain without any need to visit the doctor.

    Reply
  20. Lisa Nichols

    Back pain is one most popular problem in this running world. Most of us work on the office by sitting on the chair by a lot of hours which cause the back pain. The solution for this is to use the best massager in the home. It will help to relieve the pain.

    Reply
  21. matthew

    This is some really good information about upper back pain. I liked that you talked about maintaining a proper posture. That is something I have a huge problem keeping my posture in good shape. I wonder if an orthopaedic doctor could help me with that.

    Reply
  22. Bella Hardy

    Useful tips. I heard that massage chairs can help with upper back pain easy! I didn’t try but guess it is true!

    Reply
  23. Ramesh

    I cant stress people enough how proper posture will let to proper back pain solution but they dont have time for good things so sad.

    Reply
  24. Genie

    Very helpful article for back pain relief. Sitting in the right posture and sleeping on the good mattress can reduce ones back pain. Thank you very much for this tips.

    Reply
  25. ourpick

    thanks for sharing i was looking for best back massager in the market. I was really confused about what to buy or whats not finally some article from this post has helped me.

    thanks

    Reply
  26. Andre

    Very helpful tips for back pain. I have been suffering from back pain since last few years. I am doing the only exercise. Thank you so much for this valuable tips.

    Reply
  27. Claire P

    Useful share! I like that you share about these tips for controlling upper back pain. I really impresses with your this post and difference you mentioned in above blog. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll follow these tips for reducing my upper back pain . I hope your tips help me. Great help thanks.

    Reply
  28. Christina Moore

    Great tips on how to control back pain. Thanks! I have dealt with back pain problems occasionally, and I have been looking for effective tips that actually work. These tips have helped me get noticeable relief from by recurrent back pain issues. Tasks that would often result in pain no longer cause me such problems. Thanks!

    Reply
  29. Maya

    I cant stress people enough how proper posture will let to proper back pain solution but they dont have time for good things so sad.

    Reply
  30. Tim Yaotome

    When you said that one should seek medical attention when one has back pain with numbness of arms, it reminded me of my uncle. These symptoms appeared after he went on a hiking trip last week. If he needs surgery, I will ask my friends and relatives for recommendations in order to not only help him move better but also help him recover completely after the trip.

    Reply
  31. Julie Scott

    Really really useful information on back pain problems. I will surely share this information in my network. Keep posting and All the best.

    Reply
  32. Mark Murphy

    I really appreciate your tip to place all of your equipment within easy reach of yourself. My wife told me that she is going to start working from home, and she doesn’t want any back pain while working at her desk in our home office. I will be sure to tell her to place everything within reach of herself to make it easy!

    Reply
  33. Tim Yaotome

    I find it worrying when you said that one should consult their physician if a patient suffers back pain that it disables them to sleep at night or feels dizzy. If, for example, my aunt was bedridden at the hospital due to the flu and experiences bed sores, I would ask them to get a mattress that treats that. In my opinion, doing this will help her recover faster and keep her back posture healthy as well.

    Reply
  34. Bob

    I like your tip about maintaining good posture. That makes sense considering the posture can determine your muscle tightness. I’ll have to consider your tips so that I can stay loose and pain-free.

    Reply
  35. Mishu

    Thank you so much for sharing your informative article about upper back pain. As a dentist I liked that you talked about maintaining a proper posture because most of the time i forgot to keeping my posture in good shape. I read your blog several times.

    Reply
  36. Darrent Lewis

    I cant stress people enough how proper posture will let to proper back pain solution but they dont have time for good things so sad.

    Reply
  37. Darrent Lewis

    Back pain is one most popular problem in this running world. Most of us work on the office by sitting on the chair by a lot of hours which cause the back pain. The solution for this is to use the best massager in the home. It will help to relieve the pain.

    Reply
  38. Paul Walker

    Thanks for making this post. Interesting points. I, along with many people I know suffer from back pain on a regular basis. Interestingly over the years, I’ve noticed my own back getting worse. Hopefully, ill figure out what the working solution for me.

    Reply
  39. Paul Walker

    I cant stress people enough how proper posture will let to proper back pain solution but they dont have time for good things so sad.

    Reply
  40. paul

    Thanks for always being the source that explains things instead of just putting an unjustified answer out there. I loved this post.

    Reply
  41. Daniel CA

    Arm chair can help posture anf back but consider specific chair that made for back support. This article is reall helpful for back pain sufferer.

    Reply
  42. James MA

    In today’s world, back pain is a common problem and every second person is suffering from it. A good chair will support the back and reduce the back pain. In this article, a lot of information is given for reducing back pain.

    Reply
  43. Alan Smith

    I cant stress people enough how proper posture will let to proper back pain solution but they dont have time for good things so sad.

    Reply
  44. Amy Miles

    Good posture can really improve the backache issue and I’m fully agreed with the tips mentioned in this article.

    Reply

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