There are many potential reasons for a burning sensation in the upper back. Typically, this discomfort may be due to an injury, inflammation, or another medical condition.

Several conditions can cause a burning sensation in the upper back. Treatment for back pain depends on its cause, symptoms, and other factors. Some conditions that cause burning sensations in a person’s back may require urgent medical attention.

Read on to learn about the potential causes and treatment options for a burning sensation in the upper back.

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A burning sensation is a type of pain distinct from other types, such as dull, stabbing, or aching pain. Medical experts may use the term paresthesia to describe this type of pain. While a burning sensation is more common in the extremities, such as the hands and feet, it can also occur in other parts of the body, including the upper back.

Burning upper back pain symptoms vary depending on its cause. People may feel different kinds of pain, including:

Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions in the United States. It can have many different causes. Some causes of a burning sensation in a person’s upper back may include:

Herniated disk

A herniated disk describes when the soft cushion of tissue between the bones in a person’s spine is out of place. Another name for a herniated disk is a slipped disk. Lifting or twisting injuries often cause people to have disk herniation.

People may have a herniated disk in their thoracic spine, between their neck and lower back. People with thoracic disc herniation can experience a sharp or burning pain in their upper back.


Excessive exposure to UV rays from the sun, tanning beds, or other sources can cause sunburn. Sunburn is a radiation burn that can make people’s skin feel hot to the touch, causing a burning sensation. Experiencing sunburn can also increase the risk of skin cancer.

Sunburn symptoms can affect people’s unprotected upper backs if exposed to excessive UV rays. Symptoms usually start about 4 hours after sun exposure. A person’s sunburn pain is often worse 6–48 hours after exposure.

Spinal tumors

If a person has a tumor that develops in their spine, they may have radicular pain. Radicular pain is a sharp or burning sensation that:

  • spreads out into a person’s extremities, such as their:
    • hands
    • arms
    • legs
  • spreads across a person’s chest and abdomen in a band-shaped pattern

People with spinal tumors also often have different kinds of pain that can come and go with movement.


People with heartburn typically experience burning pain in their chest or throat due to stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. However, in some severe cases, people may have a burning sensation in their upper back.


Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain all over a person’s body. People with fibromyalgia also experience extreme tiredness and difficulty thinking. They may have pain in their:

  • joints
  • muscles
  • soft tissues, such as ligaments and tendons

The pain may start in one area, such as the neck and shoulders around the upper back. Over time, a person may begin to feel symptoms in other areas of their body. It can be mild or severe, and people may describe this pain as burning.

Skin infection

Some common skin infections, such as cellulitis, can make some areas feel warm and tender to the touch. Cellulitis is an infection in the deeper layers of the skin. Different types of bacteria germs can cause cellulitis. While it is common on the feet and legs, cellulitis can affect other areas, such as the upper back.

The treatment for a person’s upper back pain depends on the cause. Doctors treat some causes of burning upper back pain with medications, such as:

When the cause of the burning back pain is due to an infection, such as cellulitis, doctors can treat people with antibiotics.

Depending on the cause of the pain, a doctor may recommend physical therapy. In some cases, if other treatment options are unable to relieve pain, a doctor may recommend surgery. For example, a medical professional may suggest a discectomy to remove part of a herniated disk to relieve pressure on a nerve root or the spinal canal.

Home remedies for back pain can include:

  • using cold packs to relieve the pain
  • using hot packs to increase blood flow and help tissue or muscle healing in a person’s back
  • limiting physical activities or exercises that cause upper back pain
  • using correct lifting techniques
  • making any necessary lifestyle changes, such as:

It is advisable for people with back pain to consult a doctor if their pain does not improve after a few weeks. They should also talk with a doctor if their back pain occurs alongside any of the following symptoms:

  • numbness and tingling
  • severe back pain that does not improve with medication
  • problems urinating
  • fever
  • unintended or unexplained weight loss
  • weakness, pain, or numbness in their legs
  • back pain after an injury or a fall

Learn more about lower back pain.

Several conditions can cause a burning sensation in the upper back.

For many of these, doctors can treat people with pain relief medication. People may also be able to manage their symptoms with home remedies or OTC medication.

People may want to seek professional medical advice if their pain persists and does not improve after a few weeks.