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Aching Affliction: Understanding Why Your Upper Left Back Hurts

Whether it’s a nagging ache or a sharp twinge, understanding why your upper left back hurts is the first step towards finding relief and regaining control of your life. 

In “Aching Affliction: Understanding Why Your Upper Left Back Hurts,” we will unravel the mysteries of this not too common ailment, delving into the various factors that might be contributing to your discomfort.

Common Causes of Upper Left Back Pain

Upper left back pain can be attributed to various factors, from everyday habits to underlying medical conditions. Understanding these common causes is crucial for identifying the root of your discomfort and determining the most appropriate course of action for relief.

Muscle Strain and Overuse

Muscle strain is among the most prevalent causes of upper left back pain. Overexertion, repetitive movements, or sudden, forceful actions can lead to microscopic tears in the muscles, resulting in discomfort.

Lifting heavy objects, improper lifting techniques, or excessive exercise without a proper warm-up can contribute to muscle strain.

Poor Posture

Our modern lifestyle, characterized by prolonged sitting and desk work, often leads to poor posture. Slouching or hunching over a computer can strain the muscles in the upper back, leading to pain over time.

The upper left back area is particularly vulnerable to this type of discomfort due to the position of the shoulder blade and surrounding muscles.

Injury and Trauma

Accidents, falls, or direct impacts on the upper left back region can cause acute pain. Car accidents, sports-related collisions, or even simple slips and falls can result in muscle contusions, ligament sprains, or fractures, leading to localized pain and tenderness.

Stress and Tension

Emotional and psychological stress can manifest, often leading to muscle tension and discomfort. The upper left back muscles can become tight and painful due to the body’s stress response.

Stress reduction techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help reduce tension-related pain.

Herniated Discs

A herniated or slipped disc occurs when the cushion-like discs between your vertebrae bulge or rupture. It can irritate nearby nerves, causing pain that may radiate to the upper left back.

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances occur when specific muscles are more robust or tighter than others, leading to improper alignment and strain.

For instance, inequalities between the chest and back muscles can contribute to upper left-back pain.


Arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the joints in the upper back, leading to chronic pain and stiffness. Arthritic changes can cause inflammation and discomfort in the upper left back area.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

This condition involves compression of nerves and blood vessels between the collarbone and the first rib, leading to pain in the upper back, shoulder, and arm. It can be caused by poor posture, trauma, or anatomical variations.

Heart-related Issues

Sometimes, upper left back pain can be a referred pain from heart-related problems like angina or a heart attack. Considering these possibilities is essential, especially if the pain is accompanied by other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or nausea.

Lung Conditions

Certain lung conditions, such as pleurisy (inflammation of the lining around the lungs) or pneumonia, can cause pain in the upper left back when breathing or coughing.

Final Thoughts

Understanding these common causes can provide valuable insights into the potential reasons behind your upper left back pain.

But remember that self-diagnosis may not always be accurate, and it’s recommended to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation if the pain persists or worsens. 

See you in my next post…’til then, be healthy and live fully!

Dr. Lex Gonzales
Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT has been a physical/physiotherapist for over 24 years and is an award-winning author and keynote speaker. On he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to improve your health and function.