Physiotherapy for Back Pain Articles
Decoding Upper Right Side Back Pain: Causes and Solutions

Decoding Upper Right Side Back Pain: Causes and Solutions

Dealing with upper back pain can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience. Whether you're experiencing dull pain or sharp pain, understanding the causes and finding effective relief is crucial. In this article, we'll explore the risk factors associated with upper right-side back pain, possible causes, and ways to alleviate the pain.

Risk Factors for Developing or Exacerbating Upper Right Side Back Pain

Back pain on the upper right side can develop or exacerbate due to various factors such as lifestyle and advancing age. 60% of confirmed occupational disease cases in Singapore from 2019-2021 are due to back pain, stemming from ergonomic risks. Specifically, the following factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing upper right back pain:

Poor Posture

One of the primary risk factors for developing upper right-side back pain is poor posture. Slouching or maintaining improper alignment while sitting or standing can put unnecessary strain on your back muscles.

The upper right side of your back is particularly vulnerable to this strain, leading to discomfort and pain over time. To mitigate this risk, make a conscious effort to maintain good posture throughout your daily activities. Sit up straight, align your shoulders with your hips, and avoid hunching forward.


Obesity is not only detrimental to your overall health but also a contributing factor to upper right-side back pain. The excess weight places additional stress on your spine and back muscles, leading to discomfort and potential injury.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can help you lose weight, better manage your weight, and reduce the strain on your back. Consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist for personalised guidance and support.

Advanced Age

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes that can increase the likelihood of experiencing upper right-side back pain. The natural wear and tear of the spine, decreased muscle mass, and changes in bone density can all contribute to discomfort and pain.

Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and incorporating strength training into your routine can help alleviate age-related back pain. Additionally, practising good posture and avoiding excessive strain on your back can help prevent further complications.

Chronic Stress or Depression

Chronic stress and depression can have a significant impact on your physical well-being, including your back health. When you experience prolonged stress or suffer from depression, your muscles tend to tense up, leading to muscle imbalances and increased risk of pain.

Seeking professional help to manage stress or depression, such as therapy or counselling, can provide valuable tools to improve your mental and physical health. Engaging in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, can also help reduce muscle tension and promote overall well-being.


Smoking not only poses a multitude of health risks but also contributes to upper right-side back pain. Smoking reduces blood flow to the spinal discs, limiting their ability to receive essential nutrients and causing them to degenerate faster.

This degradation can lead to pain and discomfort in the upper right side of your back. Quitting smoking is crucial for not only improving your overall health but also reducing the risk of back pain. Consult with your healthcare provider for assistance and resources to help you on your journey towards a smoke-free life.

Possible Causes of Upper Right-Side Back Pain

Upper right-side back pain may be caused by various conditions, and understanding them may help in creating a suitable treatment plan that can effectively alleviate this excruciating pain. Here are some of the possible causes of upper right-side back pain:

Muscle Strain from Overuse or Injury

One of the most common causes of upper right-side back pain is muscle strain or muscle spasms resulting from overuse or injury. Engaging in repetitive tasks and movements or lifting heavy objects incorrectly can strain the muscles in your upper back, leading to pain and discomfort. It's essential to practice proper body mechanics, lift objects using your legs, and take regular breaks to avoid overexertion.

Spinal Fractures

Spinal fractures, although less common, can also be a cause of upper right-side back pain. Fractures may occur due to trauma, such as a fall or accident, or as a result of osteoporosis weakening the bones. If you suspect a spinal fracture, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. Treatment options may include pain management, bracing, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention. Preventing fractures by maintaining strong bones through a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, regular exercise, and avoiding activities that may put excessive strain on your back is crucial.


Osteoporosis, a condition characterised by weakened and brittle bones, can contribute to upper right-side back pain. As the bones lose density, they become more susceptible to fractures and compression, leading to pain and discomfort. Taking preventive measures such as consuming a calcium-rich diet, engaging in weight-bearing exercises, and ensuring adequate vitamin D intake can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. If you suspect osteoporosis or experience persistent back pain, consult with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.


Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, can affect the upper right side of your back, leading to pain and stiffness. As the cartilage between the spinal joints wears down over time, the bones may rub against each other, causing inflammation and discomfort. Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or yoga, can help improve joint flexibility and reduce pain. Applying heat or cold therapy and taking over-the-counter pain relievers can also provide temporary relief.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder characterised by pressure on trigger points in the muscles, leading to chronic pain and referred pain in other parts of the body. It can cause upper-right side back pain when trigger points in the trapezius and para-spinal muscles are affected. It can be caused by various factors, including muscle injury, stress-related muscle tension, repetitive motions, poor posture, and muscle weakness.

Referred Pain

In some cases, the crippling upper back pain may be a result of referred pain from other underlying conditions. Spinal infections or herniated discs in the lower back can cause radiating pain that manifests on the upper right side.

Spinal Infection

A spinal infection refers to an infection that occurs in the spine and surrounding tissues. It can be caused by bacteria or fungi entering the spine through the bloodstream or as a result of nearby infections or trauma. The most common form of spinal infection is vertebral osteomyelitis, which can lead to localised pain, redness, swelling, and fever. In rare cases, a progressing infection, illness, injury, or spinal disability can affect a nerve root or even the spinal cord, leading to upper-right side back pain.

Herniated Disc

Also known as a slipped disc, a herniated disc occurs when the soft inner portion of a spinal disc protrudes through the disc's outer layer. This condition can cause upper-right side back pain when the herniated disc affects the nerves in the spinal cord or spinal nerves in that area. In some cases, a herniated disc can occur due to a spinal injury, such as excessive strain or trauma.

The herniation can lead to compression or irritation of these nerves, resulting in pain that radiates from the back to the upper right side. The pain is often described as burning or stinging and may extend into the lower extremity. Inflammation plays a significant role in herniated disc pain, and reducing inflammation is a key component of treatment.

Ways to Relieve Pain In Your Upper Back

Anti-Inflammatory Pain Relievers

When experiencing upper right-side back pain, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can offer temporary relief. NSAIDs have anti-inflammatory properties that can effectively reduce inflammation and provide relief from pain. It's important to note that long-term use of NSAIDs may have adverse effects, so it is best to use them sparingly and focus on addressing the root cause of the pain.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected area can help relieve upper right-side back pain.

Heat therapy, such as the application of a hot water bottle or indulging in a warm bath, can effectively induce muscle relaxation and enhance blood circulation to the affected area, which ultimately facilitates the healing process.

On the other hand, cold therapy, such as using an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, can help reduce inflammation and numb the area, providing temporary pain relief. It's essential to alternate between heat and cold therapy and not apply them directly to the skin to avoid burns or frostbite.


Resting is crucial when experiencing upper right-side back pain, especially if it is a result of overuse or muscle strain. Avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain and allowing your body to recover is essential for a speedy healing process.

However, it's important to strike a balance between rest and gentle movement. Prolonged bed rest can weaken muscles and delay recovery. Listen to your body's cues and gradually reintroduce gentle exercises or activities as the pain subsides.

Gentle Exercises

Engaging in gentle exercises can help alleviate upper right-side back pain and prevent future episodes. Strengthening exercises that target the back muscles, such as yoga or Pilates, can improve posture and provide stability to the spine. Stretching exercises, such as shoulder rolls or chest stretches, can help relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility.

It's important to consult with a qualified fitness professional or physical therapist to receive guidance on appropriate exercises for your specific condition and ensure proper form to prevent further injury.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be highly beneficial in treating upper-right side back pain. It offers various treatments that aim to reduce pain, improve mobility, and strengthen the affected muscles. A physical therapist may provide you with active treatments that involve exercises prescribed by physical therapists to promote strength, healing, and mobility. These exercises may include stretches and strengthening exercises for the neck, shoulders, and upper back


If the upper right-side back pain persists or is severe, seeking the help of a physiotherapist such as that from Phoenix Rehab may be beneficial. A physiotherapist can assess your condition, provide targeted exercises and treatments, and guide you towards recovery.

They may use techniques for back pain physiotherapy, such as manual therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation, to alleviate pain and promote healing. They can also provide guidance on proper body mechanics, posture correction, and lifestyle modifications to eliminate recurring pain and prevent future episodes of upper right-side back pain.

When to See a Doctor

While many cases of upper right-side back pain can be managed with self-care and lifestyle modifications, there are instances where seeking medical attention is necessary.

If your pain is severe, lasts longer than a few weeks (that it may be categorised as chronic back pain), is persistent and frequently comes back (recurring pain), or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or difficulty in controlling bowel or bladder function, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional.

Medical professionals can perform a thorough evaluation, order diagnostic tests if needed, and provide appropriate treatment or referral to a specialist.

Final Words

Upper right back pain can significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being. By understanding the risk factors, possible causes, and effective ways to relieve the pain, you can take proactive steps towards managing and preventing future episodes.

If you experience persistent or severe pain, consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalised treatment plan. With the right knowledge and care, you can find relief and regain control of your back health.

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