Read below about sharp upper back pain, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your sharp upper back pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having sharp upper back pain

Take Quiz

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Sharp Upper Back Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced sharp upper back pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Upper Back

    The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.

    The pain associated with a slipped disk usually goes away within six weeks. If the pain lasts longer, consult a doctor. They may send you to see a back specialist for an MRI of your spine, and surgery may be considered.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    upper back pain, neck pain, arm weakness, back pain that gets worse when sitting, upper spine pain
    Symptoms that always occur with herniated (slipped) disk in the upper back:
    upper back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Vertebral Osteomyelitis

    Infection of the spinal bones (Vertebral Osteomyelitis) is caused by the spread of bacteria through the blood from another body part that lands in the spine. It's typically caused by bugs named Staph. Aureus (40-50% of the time), streptococci (12%), e.coli (9%), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (6%).

    6 weeks of antibiotics typically clears things up

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    upper back pain, spontaneous neck or back pain, fever, foot numbness, upper leg numbness
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Myofascial Pain Syndrome

    Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic musculoskeletal syndrome caused by trigger points within muscle. Pressure on these points causes pain in the area around the point as well as in other body parts, a phenomenon known as referred pain.

    Resolution of pain is dependent on type of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome:
    tender muscle knot
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Spine Metastases

    Bone metastases occur when tumor cells migrate from the original tumor site and cause a secondary tumor elsewhere in the body. The spine is a common location for metastases to appear and symptoms generally include pain and tingling.

    Outcome is dependent on severity of disease and treatment given.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    back pain, lower back pain, fatigue, mid back pain, urinary changes
    Symptoms that always occur with spine metastases:
    back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with spine metastases:
    back pain from overuse, lower back pain from an injury, mid back pain from an injury, mid back pain from overuse
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Sharp Upper Back Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having sharp upper back pain.

    Take Quiz
  5. 5.Osteoid Osteoma

    An osteoid osteoma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that usually develops in the long bones of the legs. The thigh bone (femur) is affected most commonly, although the bones of the hand or the spine can have occasional involvement. This condition is most often found in young people.

    Good prognosis, 90% chance that the condition will not come back. A short recovery time after surgery is expected.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, upper back pain, spontaneous back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, severe back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with osteoid osteoma:
    hip pain, bilateral leg swelling, weakness in both arms, weakness of both legs
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Heart Attack in a Woman

    Most heart attacks happen when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Often this leads to an irregular heartbeat - called an arrhythmia - that causes a severe decrease in the pumping function of the heart.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, pain in one arm, chest pain, shortness of breath
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  7. 7.Osteoporotic Spinal Fracture

    Osteoporosis is a condition in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. Cracks can appear in the boney structures of the back (vertebrae) which can lead to back pain, back deformities and loss of height.

    Weeks to months

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    mid back pain, spontaneous mid back pain, unintentional weight loss, back pain affecting the spine, back deformity
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  8. 8.Traumatic Vertebral Fracture

    Vertebral fracture is a fracture or dislocation of a vertebra that can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Most spinal fractures occur from car accidents, falls, gunshot, or sports.

    Variable depending on severity (months)

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    back pain, constant back pain, severe back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain affecting the spine
    Symptoms that always occur with traumatic vertebral fracture:
    back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with traumatic vertebral fracture:
    mild back pain
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Sharp Upper Back Pain

  • Q.Turn your head toward the side of your body that is hurting. Lift your head up as someone else pushes down on your head. Does this cause greater pain in your upper body? (This is known as Spurling's test.)
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Is the pain in your upper back moving down your arm?
  • Q.Do you feel a painful, tight knot or band in your muscle anywhere on the body?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our sharp upper back pain symptom checker to find out more.

Take Quiz

Sharp Upper Back Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced sharp upper back pain have also experienced:

    • 4% Rib Pain
    • 4% Rib Pain on One Side
    • 4% Back Pain
  • People who have experienced sharp upper back pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 34% Less Than a Day
    • 27% Less Than a Week
    • 21% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced sharp upper back pain were most often matched with:

    • 50% Vertebral Osteomyelitis
    • 25% Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Upper Back
    • 25% Myofascial Pain Syndrome
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having sharp upper back pain

Take Quiz