What could be causing upper back popping?

Therapeutic Associates
graphic illustration of a spine

I have a lot of “popping” going on in my upper back, especially when I sleep, turn over, and when I first get up. What could be causing this?

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • Occasional “popping” in the upper back is not uncommon.
  • Upper back popping is typically not a concern unless associated with pain or functional limitation.
  • Therapeutic exercises performed in a “pop free” range can address this issue.

Without doing a thorough examination of your spine, I am not able to speculate on your specific condition. 

However, I can say that occasional “popping” in the upper back is not uncommon and is typically not a concern unless associated with pain or functional limitation. “Popping” felt in the upper back can have several origins, such as a tendon snapping over a bone, a bone moving on bone, or the release of gas from the joints in your spine. 

Excessive “popping” can happen when the spine moves too much, lacking stability from surrounding muscles, ligaments, and bones. 

Therapeutic exercises performed in a “pop free” range are usually the best course of action to address this issue. 

If your back bothers you, I would recommend that you set up some time with your physical therapist, who will evaluate you and design a personalized plan of care.

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