Symptoms A-Z

Spontaneous Upper Back Pain Symptom, Causes & Questions

Understand your spontaneous upper back pain symptoms, including 8 causes & common questions.

This symptom can also be referred to as: upper back pain for no reason

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8 Possible Spontaneous Upper Back Pain Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced spontaneous upper back pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Shingles (herpes zoster)

Shingles is a painful rash that results when the varicella zoster virus (VZV) — the same virus that causes the chickenpox — becomes reactivated. It results in a painful rash of small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) over a single strip of skin on one side of the body...

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis...

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.

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

Heart attack in a woman

A heart attack happens when the heart does not receive enough oxygenated blood to meet its demand, resulting in the death of heart tissue. This can be caused by a decreased supply of oxygenated blood or too high of a demand.

Symptoms include chest pain or pressure th...

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Aortic dissection

An aortic dissection occurs when blood gets between the walls of the aorta. The splitting of the wall can spread and send create dangerous blood clots.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: being severely ill, chest pain, pain below the ribs, sharp chest pain, spontaneous upper back pain

Symptoms that always occur with aortic dissection: being severely ill

Urgency: Emergency medical service

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.

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

Spine metastases

Metastasis is the term meaning the spread of cancer cells from tumors in other parts of the body. The spine is a common location for new tumors, or metastases, to form.

Some types of cancers, especially those of the breast, prostate, lung, thyroid, and kidney, are likely to spread to the spine. Exactly why this happens is not known.

Symptoms of spine metastases include back pain; bowel and urinary incontinence; arm or leg weakness; and hypercalcemia, or high levels of calcium in the blood.

Hypercalcemia can cause nausea and vomiting, constipation, and mental confusion.

These metastasized tumors can cause pain and fractures in the spine.

Diagnosis is made through various types of imaging, including x-ray, bone scintigraphy (bone scan,) CT scan, PET scan, and/or MRI.

Treatment is varied and is designed for each individual case. It may include IV osteoporosis medications to strengthen bones; chemotherapy to fight cancer cells; and steroids to reduce inflammation. All of these help to reduce pain, as well. Radiation therapy and surgery may also be used.

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

Vertebral osteomyelitis

Vertebral osteomyelitis, or spinal osteomyelitis, is an infection in the bones of the spine. It usually affects the lumbar, or lower, back, and may be either acute or chronic.

The infection is caused by bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and by some types of fungi. These agents can travel through the bloodstream from an infected wound elsewhere in the body and reach the bones of the spine.

Most susceptible are those with weakened immune systems; poor circulation; recent injury; or undergoing hemodialysis. Osteomyelitis of the spine is the most common form of osteomyelitis in adults, though children can also be affected.

Symptoms include swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the infection, along with fever, chills, and fatigue.

A medical provider should be seen for these symptoms, as vertebral osteomyelitis can progress to abscess and cause further complications if not treated.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests, imaging of the spine, and sometimes biopsy.

Treatment involves several weeks of intravenous antibiotic or antifungal medication, which can be given as an outpatient.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: upper back pain, spontaneous neck or back pain, fever, foot numbness, upper leg numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Spontaneous Upper Back Pain

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • 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.)
  • What is your body mass?
  • Do you feel a painful, tight knot or band in your muscle anywhere on the body?
  • Is the pain in your upper back moving down your arm?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your spontaneous upper back pain

Spontaneous Upper Back Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced spontaneous upper back pain have also experienced:

  • 5% Rib Pain
  • 4% Rib Pain On One Side
  • 3% Pain In One Arm

People who have experienced spontaneous upper back pain were most often matched with:

  • 40% Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
  • 30% Psoriatic Arthritis
  • 30% Herniated (Slipped) Disk In The Upper Back

People who have experienced spontaneous upper back pain had symptoms persist for:

  • 34% Less than a day
  • 27% Less than a week
  • 21% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Spontaneous Upper Back Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your spontaneous upper back pain

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.