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Do You Get an Itchy Spot in the Middle of Your Back?

By HERWriter
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you know that itchy spot in the middle of your back? Auremar/PhotoSpin

People have complained of having itchy areas in their upper back for centuries. The itch usually occurs between the shoulder blades either in the middle of the back or just underneath one shoulder blade.

Interestingly, one review stated they thought the back scratcher was invented to scratch that annoying itch because it is so difficult to reach.

Various studies have identified that the persistent itch is due to a nerve-driven signal called notalgia paresthetica (NP). The most likely cause is from a nerve impingement. Nerves that exit that level of the spinal column that are involved in sensation to the skin have become pinched or squeezed.

This can occur due to muscle spasms or degenerative changes to the spine. Nerve-related itching is also called neuropathic pruritus or neuropathic itch.

The skin in that area of the back becomes hypersensitive. Being rubbed by a shirt tag or having overly dry skin can set off an episode of prolonged itching to that localized spot. Other symptoms can occur, such as pain or altered sensation.

The skin can become darkened from constant scratching so seeking the advice of a dermatologist may be helpful to prevent further damage to the area.

Dr. Cynthia Bailey, dermatologist in California, wrote about several treatments in her blog that she suggests to her patients to relieve NP. First and foremost though, she recommended making sure that the skin is moisturized to reduce any itching caused by dry skin.

1) Wear soft non-irritating fabrics and remove labels to avoid potential problems.

2) Place an ice pack over the itchy area. The cold sensation will override the itch. Do not use heat, as it will just intensify the itching.

3) Avoid scratching. Scratching strengthens and thickens the skin surrounding the nerve causing a cycle of increased itching.

4) Try anti-itch creams that have pramoxine or menthol in them.

5) Topical prescription steroid cream or oral anti-itch medication may be tried but may not be effective.

Other treatments that may improve the itching are: capsaicin cream, acupuncture, biofeedback, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine treatment, and exercise.

In more advanced cases, a doctor can inject Botox or block the nerve with an injection of lidocaine. There are also some prescription oral medications that act to block overly irritable nerve impulses but they have side effects that may not be well tolerated.

NP is common in middle-aged women and can last for months or even years. However, it is not a life-threatening condition. While NP can be a frustrating and annoying problem, it is felt that educating patients is one of the most important parts of treatment.


What causes itching in the middle of the back? Dr. Cynthia Bailey.com. Web Mar 8, 2014.

Ellis, Carolyn D.O. Notalgia paresthetica: the unreachable itch. Dermatol Pract Concept. Jan 2013; 3(1): 3–6. Published online Jan 31, 2013. doi: 10.5826/dpc.0301a02.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Hi all, ive had a very itchy back like im rubbing it on door sides to relieve it, I have been to my gp he thinks its something to do with allergies and ive been down to a consultant at beneden hospital he thinks its in my head, but really im going out of my mind itching!! its not all day I get an itchy back just sometimes but very bad to the extent that it bleeds> I have creams from my gp but they dpont seem to work. im going to try a cream opver the counter called AVEENA got to try something, my partner says don't scratch my back on doorways but she doesent understand how itchy my back is, im going mad with this bloody itching also if anyone has any suggestions please please get in touch with your thoughts I would really appreciate it, [email protected] thank you

May 14, 2020 - 8:53am
EmpowHER Guest

I have had several people tell me the itch becomes worse with stress in their lives. Any comments on this?

February 6, 2019 - 1:14pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

This may well be my case. I have this itch for over 15 years, now.

April 1, 2020 - 2:35am
EmpowHER Guest

I have had this for years & not realized it recently went away until it came back! I had been doing an exercise the physio gave me for sore shoulders (I do long hours at the computer) & this must be what helped it. Roll up a towel, place it long ways down your upper spine & lay on it for a few minutes ( can't do it long to start with) a couple of times a day. Helped in so many ways! Back to the floor with me!!

August 25, 2015 - 3:52pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Excellent advice. I will try for some time and come back here for info if it helped me. Thanks.

April 2, 2020 - 2:39am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Wow, thank you so much, I'm going to try this! I've had an itchy back my entire life, and I'm 66! This is definitely going to be worth a try, thank you again!!

January 30, 2019 - 2:47pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.