Back Pain Left Side Upper: Causes and Relief Strategies

Do you feel pain in your upper left shoulder? It might be from your spine or back muscles. Bad posture or a hidden issue could be causing this. The ache might be dull or sharp, getting worse with activity or easing up when you rest. If it’s just minor, it can get better on its own. But, for a chronic problem, it might stick around until you treat it right.

The back is quite intricate. This means, pain could be coming from many places and reasons. The spine has three key parts, from the neck to the lower back, all with bones stacked together. For upper left back pain, reasons could be back muscle strain, herniated disc, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or kyphosis.

Key Takeaways

  • Upper left back pain can be caused by muscle strain, herniated disc, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or kyphosis.
  • The back is a complex structure divided into the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines.
  • Vertebrae and discs cushion and protect the spinal cord.
  • Poor posture, aging, and lack of physical activity can contribute to upper left back pain.
  • Seeking medical attention is important if the pain persists or worsens.

Understanding the Back Structure

It’s key to know your back’s anatomy to understand upper left back pain. The backbone supports your whole body. It also guards the spinal cord, which sends signals from your brain.

Cervical Spine

The cervical spine is at the top of your back. It starts from your neck. This part has seven vertebrae. It carries the weight of your head and lets you move your neck.

Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine is in the middle of your back. It’s between the cervical and lumbar spines. It has 12 vertebrae. It protects your heart and lungs. It also lets your body twist and bend a bit.

Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine is at the bottom of your back. It connects to your tailbone. It has five vertebrae. It holds most of your upper body weight. This makes it easily hurt.

Vertebrae and Discs

Each vertebra in your back has discs next to them. These discs are elastic and absorb shocks. They help your back move and protect the spinal cord. This makes your back flexible and able to take hits from daily tasks.

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Learning about your back’s structure can help find the cause of upper left back pain. This understanding makes it easier to treat with your doctor.

Common Causes of Upper Left Back Pain

Your upper left back may feel sore for many reasons. It’s good to know what might be wrong so you can get the right help. This will make you feel better.

Muscle Strain

Working your muscles too hard can cause a strain. This happens with heavy lifting or quick movements. Afterward, the upper left side of your back might hurt.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc can also lead to upper back pain. It’s when a disc in your spine breaks. The upper back will hurt if the disc is in the middle or upper part of your spine.


Scoliosis makes your spine curve to the side. Big curves can make your back hurt as you get older.

Spinal Stenosis

If your spinal canal gets too narrow, it can press on nerves. Then, one side of your upper back might ache.


When your upper back curves outward a lot, it’s kyphosis. This can cause pain in your whole back.

Other Potential Causes

Many things can cause upper back pain. There may be more than you think. A vertebral fracture in your spine is one. It can hurt a lot, especially with osteoporosis. This is when your bones are not strong. Bad poor posture is a big cause too. Sitting wrong at a computer or standing badly can make your back hurt.

Osteoarthritis is also a reason for back pain. This disease wears down the stuff that covers your bones. Then your bones rub and get sore. If your spine has this, your upper back can be sore and not move well.

Myofascial pain syndrome is one more thing that can make your back hurt. It makes some spots in your muscles very sore. The upper back’s trapezius muscle often has these spots. The pain can spread around the area.

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Internal Organ-Related Causes

Upper left back pain can be from muscles or body organs. Pancreatitis, kidney stones, and heart attacks are important to know.


Pancreatitis makes the pancreas swell, causing pain in the stomach. It can move to the upper back, especially after meals. If you drank a lot or had belly surgery, the pain may be worse.

Kidney Stone

A kidney stone moving from your kidney to the bladder can cause strong pain. It starts in the stomach and moves to the upper back. You might also have pain when you pee, feel sick, have a fever, or see blood in your pee.

Heart Attack

A heart attack might show as upper back pain, not just chest pain. The pain can spread to the neck, jaw, or upper back. If you feel this pain and something is not right, get help right away.

Don’t ignore ongoing or getting worse upper left back pain. Your doctor can find why it’s happening. Fixing the real problem early can stop the pain from lasting long.

back pain left side upper

If you have obesity, it might cause upper left back pain. Extra weight can push on your spine and muscles. This can make your upper left back hurt. Not moving enough (lack of physical activity) can do the same thing. It makes your back and core muscles weak, leading to discomfort.

Getting older makes a difference too. The body starts to show signs of “wear and tear”. Age often brings back pain, starting around 30 or 40. It can also highlight issues like scoliosis, which causes upper back pain.

Do you smoke? Smoking may mean more long-lasting upper left back pain for you. This is because smoking can slow the blood flow to your spine. And lower blood flow makes it hard for your body to heal from injuries.

Additional Symptoms

Your upper left back pain’s location and type can show what’s wrong. Pain from the abdomen to the back might be a herniated disc or muscle strain. Upper back and shoulder pain could be from bad posture or even a heart attack.

Back pain getting worse when you breathe could be serious. If eating fatty foods makes it worse, it could be pancreatitis. Pain spreading to your arm might mean a spinal issue or heart problems.

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If your upper left back hurts a lot, sees a doctor. They can figure out what’s going on. They’ll help you feel better and avoid more issues.


What can cause upper left back pain?

Upper left back pain can start in your spine. It might come from back muscles. Many things can cause it. These include muscle strain and problems like herniated disc, scoliosis, and more. Bad posture, osteoarthritis, and myofascial pain can also play a part.

How is the back structured?

The back has three main parts. The first is the cervical spine, the neck area. Then, there is the thoracic spine, or the middle. Lastly, the lumbar spine, the lower part. These parts have vertebrae and discs that keep the spinal cord safe.

What are some common causes of upper left back pain?

Muscle strain is one of the main causes. Scoliosis, herniated disc, and more can also hurt your back. These problems press on muscles and nerves. This leads to pain and feeling uncomfortable.

Can other medical conditions cause upper left back pain?

Yes, some health issues can cause upper left back pain. Problems like poor posture, osteoarthritis, and myofascial pain count. Also, issues with your organs, like the pancreas, kidney, or heart, can do it too. They may lead to a pain that spreads to your upper left back.

Are there any lifestyle factors that can lead to upper left back pain?

Yes. Being too heavy, not moving enough, getting older, and smoking can make it worse. They stress the back. Then, it’s easier to get hurt or have long-term problems.

What other symptoms might accompany upper left back pain?

Other symptoms can come with upper left back pain. This might include pain into your shoulder or arm. Feeling like it’s hard to breathe or hurting after you eat are other signs. It’s key to notice these signs to find out what’s truly wrong.