Upper back arthritis

Upper back arthritis

Upper back arthritis is a very scary name for something that occurs naturally as apart of ageing. Arthritis can occur in both the facet joints of the back and the intervertebral disc joints. Between two vertebrae are cartilage discs called intervertebral discs and these allow for proper spinal movement. As we age these discs lose their moisture and become thinned and degenerated (worn). This degeneration of the intervertebral discs can occur anywhere in the spine however usually occurs in the neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine) more so than the upper back. When this degenerative process occurs in the upper back, it is called upper back arthritis. Upper back arthritis essentially is an outdated and incorrect term. Degenerative disc disease or thoracic spondylosis are more acceptable terms. We will use it here as a source of information for those who still use the term.


Upper back arthritis occurs as a result of ageing. As we age tissues break down and our cartilage tissue is no different. Obesity and smoking increase the risk of upper back arthritis along with a history of spinal trauma (falls, sports injuries etc.), surgery and laborious occupations. Upper back arthritis may increase the likelihood of disc bulges and herniation.


The symptoms typical of upper back arthritis are pain and stiffness. This can be worse in the mornings but will typically warm up as the day progresses and more movement is achieved. If the arthritis is extensive there may be some irritation to nerves and this may need to nerve type pain (radicular pain).


The treatment for upper back arthritis will depend on the extent of the symptoms and the parts of the spinal joints that are affected. A comprehensive rehabilitation program focusing on improving joint stiffness and reducing joint pain will be guided a sports chiropractor or physiotherapist. In some causes a surgical option is warranted.

For more information please contact Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C).