Treatment for a Torn Upper Back Muscle

Updated July 19, 2017

The muscles of the upper back are a complex network of interconnected systems that stabilise the spine and allow movement of the trunk, arms and shoulders. The major muscles of the upper back include the rhomboids and trapezius, both of which are prone to injury, like any other muscle.

Grade 1 Tear

Grade 1 tears are usually mild and can be treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Grade 2 Tear

Grade 2 tears bring on more persistent pain and, at times, swelling or mild spasms. Treatments usually include rest, ice or heat, sports massage, ultrasound procedures and anti-inflammatory medications.

Grade 3 Tear

Grade 3 tears are full ruptures or serious separations of muscle fibres. These can cause swelling, bruising and an inability to raise arms or shoulders without extreme pain. Treatments include immobilising the muscle group, prescription anti-inflammatory and pain medications, or surgery to repair the muscle, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Most surgery is followed by physiotherapy and rehabilitation.


Upper back tears usually occur from overuse of an arm and/or shoulder. These injuries often occur from overhead motions such as serving in tennis, baseball pitching, lifting heavy objects or repetitive motions such as rowing.


Proper warm-up and stretching of the entire back before and after exercise can help prevent injury. Exercises to develop back muscle strength, along with eating a proper diet, taking vitamins and staying hydrated can also help prevent injuries.

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About the Author

Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.