It’s impossible for you to disagree with this:
Back pain is one of the most debilitating chronic injuries you can experience.
Common causes include sports injuries and poor posture, and the pain often keeps us from doing what we love.
But it doesn’t have to last forever.
In this post, we’ll discuss thoracic spine pain symptoms felt in the mid- or upper back, as well as your best treatment options.
First, let’s give you a quick refresher on human anatomy.
What is the ‘Thoracic Spine’?
If you reach behind you and run it down the center of your back (borrow a friend if you can’t reach!), you’ll feel some of the bumps making up the 33 vertebrae of the spinal column.
- The lower back is your lumbar spine. Herniated discs and degenerative disc disease often cause lower back pain.
- The upper section where your neck sits is the cervical spine. Herniated discs and degenerative disc disease are common here, too.
- Finally, the section between them we’ll discuss today is the thoracic spine.
These three sections help to protect the spinal cord running within the spinal canal.
But the thoracic spine serves an additional function:
Each thoracic vertebrae in this region attaches to your ribs to form the ribcage that protects vital organs beneath it.
So, what are the common symptoms of thoracic pain, and what causes it?
Most Common Thoracic Back Pain Symptoms
Many back pain symptoms are similar across the three regions and include:
- Stiffness and soreness
- Sharp pain or muscle spasms
- Reduced range of motion when bending or twisting
- Weakness and instability
- and a slouching posture.
Middle back pain in the thoracic region is not very different. Just remember you may feel pain in the ribs as well due to their connection with thoracic vertebrae.
There are also specific causes of thoracic pain you should know about and aim to avoid.
Common Causes of Thoracic Spine Pain
A systematic review of studies on thoracic pain suggests there exists a “relatively high prevalence of TSP in the general population”. So, if you’re experiencing this pain, you’re not alone.
Muscle strains caused by lifting or twisting while carrying too much weight and compression fractures caused by hard falls are obvious sources of middle back pain.
But there are a few risk factors you may not think of that have nothing to do with direct injury.
- The first is obesity. Carrying around additional body weight puts greater strain on the muscles, soft tissues, and bones of your thoracic spine and causes pain.
- The second risk factor is age. As we get older, our risk for back pain increases due to degenerating spinal nerves. Those over age 35 are at the highest risk.
- Last is inflammation. Whether as a result of eating inflammatory foods, suffering from osteoarthritis, or sustaining an injury, inflammation doesn’t spare our spine.
There are also spine conditions that cause pain:
- Thoracic facet syndrome is also known as thoracic osteoarthritis. Much like our nemesis arthritis, about which we’ve written extensively here on the GLX3 blog, thoracic facet syndrome is a degenerative disease characterized by deterioration of facet joints. These are the joints in your spinal column that allow for bending and a full, fluid range of motion.
- Thoracic spinal stenosis is characterized by a narrowing of the spinal canal or nerve root. It’s another degenerative disease, so age is a factor. In contrast to neck pain felt with cervical spinal stenosis, thoracic spinal stenosis often results in rib pain as you try to twist from side to side. It’ll definitely put a damper on your dance moves.
Now that you know what might be causing your thoracic pain, let’s talk about soothing it!
How to Treat Thoracic Spine Pain
When dealing with back pain and spinal injuries, you want to choose your treatment carefully to avoid further damage.
For this reason, comprehensive treatment often includes a trip to a physical therapist to help build your strength again while increasing or maintaining your range of motion. In some extreme cases, your condition may require surgery.
A doctor may also prescribe pain medication or anti-inflammatory meds to help you cope. The problem is, these drugs are often addictive and may damage your kidneys and liver with extended use.
Treat Thoracic Pain Naturally
Here are a few steps you can take today to begin reliving middle back pain.
- Improve your diet to speed up weight loss and decrease inflammation.
- Take an anti-inflammatory supplement like green lipped mussel oil to decrease inflammation in your spine naturally and safely.
- Use heat treatment or cold therapy depending on whether you are experiencing tightness or inflammation.
- Sit upright with your spine aligned to avoid poor posture.
It’s always best to seek medical attention from your healthcare provider in conjunction with home remedies for back pain.
Do you have any questions about middle back pain or natural anti-inflammatory treatments like GLX3? Leave a comment below and we’d be happy to help!
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