Why Your Upper Back Pain When You Study?

It’s not uncommon for students to experience upper back pain during long study sessions. Sitting hunched over a desk for hours on end can put a lot of strain on the muscles in your upper back. Here are some of the main reasons why you may feel upper back pain when studying, and tips to help prevent and relieve the discomfort.

Poor Posture

One of the biggest culprits of upper back pain is poor posture while studying. When you slouch or hunch over your books for a prolonged time, it strains the muscles between your neck and shoulders. Maintaining this position compresses the vertebrae in your thoracic spine as well, which can lead to stiffness and pain.

To avoid this, be mindful of sitting up straight during study sessions. Keep your ears aligned above your shoulders and avoid jutting your head forward. Get up and take regular breaks from your desk every 30 minutes or so to walk around and reset your posture. You can also try placing a rolled up towel or small pillow behind your lower back to encourage better spine alignment when you sit.

Muscle Tension

Intense concentration and stress during studying can unconsciously cause you to tense your neck and shoulders. Clenching these muscles for a long time can result in irritation of the nerves and connective tissues in the upper back. The muscle tension may stem from anxiety about an upcoming test or frustration when you get stuck on challenging concepts.

Stretching and massage are useful for releasing upper back muscle tension. Every so often during your study session, take a few minutes to stand up and do shoulder rolls, neck stretches or thoracic spine twists. Having a friend or family member massage your upper back and shoulders can also help enormously. Managing your stress levels through relaxation techniques will further help keep those muscles relaxed.

Poor Ergonomics

Studying at a desk or table with improper ergonomics for extended periods puts strain on the upper back. Your work surface may be too high or low, forcing you to hunch over. Or your chair might not provide adequate lumbar support. Staring down at laptop screens and tablets on your lap promotes a rounded spine as well.

Look at optimizing the ergonomics of your study space. Use a desk and chair that allows you to keep your elbows at 90 degree angles with your wrists straight. Your eye level should be roughly level with the top third of your computer screen. And try placing your laptop on a stand to elevate it. A lumbar cushion for your lower back can also help maintain a neutral spine position.

By being aware of your posture, releasing muscle tension, and setting up an ergonomic study space, you can help avoid and treat upper back pain from long study sessions. Don’t ignore the discomfort—address these common causes early on to prevent chronic issues down the road. Your back will thank you!