Physical Therapy, Upper Back Pain and The Office Worker

My name is Sara. I am writing to All Things PT with an endorsement. I used to have pain in the middle of my upper back, in between my shoulder blades. I had this pain off and on for years. I work in an office for the state of Michigan. I work at a computer work station, and sometimes I will spend 6 hours a day typing on a keyboard. After a few days of this my back will really start to hurt. I saw Bruce Linder about two years ago and he gave me six exercises to do that were supposed to help my upper back pain go away. I did the exercises and in about a week and my back pain started going away. I was having physical therapy at the same time, and I thought that most of my pain went away because of the hot packs, the electrical stimulation and the massages I was getting.

I went to PT for about a month. When I finished, Bruce told me to remember to do my upper back exercises whenever my back started hurting again. It wasn’t very long before my pain returned, so I went back to my doctor who said that he would send me back to PT. I told him that I didn’t have time for PT and I just wanted to try pain medications. So, he gave me an anti-inflamatory and a muscle relaxer. They helped my pain a little, but the muscle relaxer made me really tired. I used the pain medications for a month or two, but they didn’t do much more than take the edge off of my pain.

My girlfriend suggested I go see her chiropractor. I went for a couple visits, and it didn’t help at all, so I went back to my doctor who sent me back to PT again.  When Bruce saw me, the first thing he asked was if I was doing my exercises. I told him that I wasn’t because I had forgotten how to do them, even though I still had the program written down at home. I didn’t do the exercises because I didn’t think they would work. Bruce used the hot packs and electrical stimulation again and he used a massage cream on my back, and it felt great. Bruce also had me start the exercises again. My back pain was gone in a week.

Bruce explained to me that muscles get sore and tired, and the best way to control my pain was to do my exercises. He said that he was happy to keep seeing me whenever I got sore, but it would be easier for me if I just did my exercises and saved my health insurance for when I really needed it. I did not really believe him, because I did not really want to have to do my exercises.

It wasn’t very long before my upper back started hurting. Basically it hurt whenever I had to do a lot of work on my computer. So, I started doing my six exercises again. They are not very hard to do, and I only use two 3 pound hand weights. As soon as I started doing the exercises, my pain got better. It has been over a year now and my back almost never hurts. I do my upper back exercises 3 or 4 days a week and I also run three miles 3 or 4 days a week.

If you are having upper back pain, I recommend trying the All Things PT advanced shoulder program and see how it works for you.

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Editor’s note: Sara’s story is pretty typical of the average office worker I see – who can and will do the shoulder exercise program. (If you do not do your exercises, you will probably not get better.) Unfortunately, there are no permanent cures for many of the aches and pains we have. In Sara’s case, she will probably have to do her shoulder/upper back exercises until she stops spending long days working at a computer. Keyboarding is very tiring on the upper back muscles. Thank-you Sara. Nice story. – Bruce Linder, PT