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Itchy backs are annoying under the best of circumstances. If you're constantly experiencing itchy sensations around the upper back, and have been for a while, without noticing any obvious cause such as bug bites or redness, the situation becomes more than annoying though. It becomes a mystery. Let's see if we can solve it, shall we?

Itching In The Upper Back Without An Obvious Cause?

Strange as it sounds, there's actually a medical condition that is thought to affect as many as 10 percent of people over the course of their lifetime that leads to frequent itching of the upper back, either off-center or right in the middle. It can affect people of all ages and sexes but is more common in older individuals. Though it's most frequently accompanied by a darker patch of skin directly covering the itchy area, that isn't always the case.

People who have recently developed the condition are bound to look in the mirror to figure out what is happening on their back. Seeing nothing that could explain the itch is present, they'll start to wonder: "Everyone has an itchy back sometimes... is what I'm experiencing normal, or a medical problem?"

Frequent itching of the upper back without an obvious cause can probably be explained by this condition. It's called notalgia paresthetica.

Who Gets Notalgia Paresthetica?

Previously something physicians could only speculate about, the cause of notalgia paresthetica has now been identified: impingement of a spinal nerve. Though that doesn't mean there is something seriously wrong with the backs of those who suffer from the condition, as even something as common as a spinal calcified spur can lead to notalgia paresthetica, it does mean that it occurs in people who necessarily have some level of back damage already. 

Indeed, talking to people who suffer from the condition, they'll almost always self-report that they were suffering from some back condition or another prior to the itching. It's because the kind of nerve damage that can lead to notalgia paresthetica usually only comes with age that this upper back itch often affects people in their middle age and beyond.

If you believe you could have this condition, seeing your primary care physician is a good first step. They can assess your symptoms and refer you for an MRI scan or an X-ray that can confirm the diagnosis.

OK, What Can I Do About Notalgia Paresthetica?

While there is no cure for notalgia paresthetica, the condition can indeed be managed once properly diagnosed. The best approach will likely involve both self-care and medical help:

  • Moisturizing the area well, including by using creams that contain the pepper extract capsaicin or alpha hydroxy acids, can help reduce itching slightly.
  • Prescription corticosteroids bring relief in some people suffering from notalgia paresthetica.
  • Over the counter or prescription topical analgesics can help reduce the itching sensation.
  • In more extreme cases, certain anti-seizure medications can bring relief.
  • If none of those approaches offer sufficient relief, more radical treatment options may also be considered. They are either injections of local anethesia into the area where your nerves are compressed, or spinal surgery.

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