Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What causes the upper back to hurt on one side only?"
I'm a younger male with no history of back problems. About 3 months ago I began feeling pain in my upper back that didn't seem to be caused by anything I could identify. What really worries me about it is why it's only on one side. Does this mean I've slipped a disc or something?
Back pain is a fairly common problem, and sometimes it can require treatment. Based on how long your symptoms have been going on, it is advisable for you to be examined by your primary care doctor to make sure there is no further workup needed. Back pain that is one-sided or predominantly one-side is actually the most common type of back pain. Typically what happens is that after an injury or strain to the back, the postural muscles that run up and down the sides of the spine get inflamed and may spasm, producing something called paraspinal muscle spasm. Typically there is tenderness and stiffness in this band of muscles just to the side of the spine. Paraspinal spasm typically responds to back strengthening exercises but sometimes medications, such as muscle relaxants, may be required. If the pain that you are experiencing is not just located to the muscles on the side of the spine but also runs down your arm or leg and is accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness, then this is more typical of the nerve compression that is produced by a slipped disc. Either way, it seems like you are at the stage right now where you could use a thorough physical examination and a talk with your primary care doctor.
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