What is Thoracic Back Pain? 

Thoracic pain is pain referred to the pain that emerges from the thoracic spine or the mid-back. The thoracic spine is located near the thorax which is the back of the chest and is near the middle of the two shoulder blades.

The pain originates from near the bottom of the neck to the start of the lumbar vertebrae, or near the waist. An interesting inference from the thoracic back pain data suggests that this pain happens more commonly with young kids and teenagers.

Some thoracic back pain red flags may include sharp pain the back or increased stiffness which happens due to heavy backpack use, school chair heights and poor posture while studying.

Furthermore, thoracic back pain is more common with teenage girls than boys and this pain happens to develop in the transition phase between childhood to adolescence. It can also happen to adults, and this back pain affects their normal range of motion and functionality.

Causes of Thoracic Back Pain

Since the back contains one of the most diverse and interconnected range of bones, nerves, ligaments, muscles and tendons, back pain may be caused because of numerous reasons.

Let us explore the various causes that can help us gain more insight into how to stop thoracic back pain

  • Muscle Tension
    This presentation can be seen mostly in young teenagers as this muscle tension is caused by prolonged periods of poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise. Due to this, muscles tighten up, causing pain. For adults in office jobs with prolonged periods of sitting, muscle tension is a common symptom associated with thoracic back pain. 
  • Sudden impact
    Thoracic Back pain can also be caused due to a sudden impact or injury. This causes trauma to the thoracic region in the form of a fall or a blow. A fall from a height, or a sports-related injury can cause rib fractures that affect the thoracic nerves. 
  • Twists and Sprains
    Incorrect position of sleeping, posture, incorrect stance while working out, etc may also be contributing factors to thoracic back pain. Your ligament can be injured if there is a sudden twisting motion that overstretches your ligament beyond the limit. This causes pain in the affected area and gets worse if proper help and physical therapy exercises for mid-back pain are not performed. 
  • Repetitive Motions
    Overuse of the thoracic spine is a major contributing factor to thoracic back pain. This happens when repetitive motions lead to the overuse of a muscle that causes injuries. If you are repeatedly lifting, twisting, and bending without proper rest and recovery, then this might contribute to thoracic back pain. 
  • Arthritis
    As we know, arthritis heavily affects bones and joints that lead to sharp pain and discomfort. Arthritis with age may be a reason behind your thoracic back pain as the joints in the thoracic region start to deteriorate. 
  • Bulging and Herniated Disks
    Herniated disks cause the protective gelatinous material to leak outside and impinge on the nerves, that lead to thoracic back pain. The leaked material causes irritation in the nerves near the thoracic spine causing discomfort and pain in the mid-upper back region. 
  • Osteoporosis
    Osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis cause degeneration in the joints and bones by narrowing the spinal canal in the thoracic region commonly referred to as spinal stenosis. This causes back pain due to irritated spinal cords and nerves.

Also Read: Diagnosed With Sciatica? Physiotherapy Can Help You Out!

Symptoms of Thoracic Back Pain

Thoracic back pain is indeed a discomforting and grueling experience. It can cause an impediment to your day-to-day activities making sitting, lying down, or even standing up straight a battle for affected patients. People affected need to seek treatment plans and physiotherapy for back pain to deal with pain management and recovery.

However, thoracic back pain manifests itself differently in different people so it is best to identify your symptoms before deciding on an ideal treatment plan

  • Recurring pain in the mid-back
    Although experiencing soreness and tightness in the mid-upper back is not uncommon, the differentiator is the persistence of it. When pain or tightness persists for a day or two this might be the sign that the thoracic region is affected and needs medical attention. 
  • Stabbing Pain
    This may feel like tiny needles jabbing your mid-back area. It may be caused by an injury that leads to sudden sharp pain in the thoracic region. This pain might be aggravated every time you bend to pick up an object or twist your trunk area. 
  • Stiffness
    Thoracic back pain causes considerable stiffness- achy or mild- causing difficulty in falling asleep or disturbed sleep at night. Patients suffering from thoracic back pain may also find it difficult to find a comfortable sitting position due to the stiffness. 
  • Similarity to Sciatic Pain
    Radiating pain in the back is a common symptom of thoracic back pain and it is quite similar to the radiating pain of sciatica in your leg. Since the thoracic part of the spine is attached to the rib cage some people can feel pain around the side. This pain may cause difficulty even while breathing because the muscles around the rib cage are injured due to a person’s thoracic back pain injury. The differentiator with radiating back pain is that it is felt only on one side. It has different manifestations- it can be dull or aching, or even a sharp electric shock pain. 
  • Numbness and Tingling
    Thoracic spine has a lot of important nerve endings that carry sensory and motor information to major parts of the body like the arms, legs, stomach, etc. This is why any injury to the thoracic area can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in these parts of the body.

Also Read: How to Combat Herniated Disc with Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy Treatment for Thoracic Back Pain

Physiotherapy for thoracic back pain is an important step towards recovery. It should be the first step in your recovery plan before you consider anything else. Physiotherapists are qualified and have specialized in the assessment and treatment of spinal problems, thus cutting out the need for unnecessary surgical intervention. However, early intervention with a qualified professional is imperative if we are to get to the root of the problem, restore function and reduce pain in the short term.

Here are various physiotherapy techniques that will help you reduce and provide accurate treatment for your thoracic back pain injury. 

  • Physiotherapists stand behind the benefits of massage therapies for muscle tension release and pain relief. For thoracic back pain relief- soft tissue massage, muscular and trigger point releases will be a treatment options to help manage your pain better. 
  • Physiotherapists also recommend physiotherapy exercise for thoracic back pain which includes light and firm thoracic spinal mobilizations to help with pain relief and stiffness. 
  • Through muscle manipulations, physiotherapists target the affected muscles in the thoracic regions to help you manage your pain better. 
  • Using TENS(Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) massaging techniques, heat and ice therapy depending upon the type of pain, your assigned physiotherapist will choose a form of pain relief method to provide short-term pain relief. 
  • Your physiotherapist might recommend getting compression, strapping, or support braces to help you retain your posture back. This is especially pertinent for people just out of surgery who might have thoracic back pain due to surgery-related muscle immobilization. 
  • Your physiotherapist will recommend stretching, range of motion exercises, and breathing techniques to help you strengthen your back. They might also change your workout schedule to prevent any injury or incorrect postures and exercises that may be aggravating your condition. 
  • Posture is an important path towards recovery. Your physiotherapist will work on improving your posture for core strength and alignment as a preventative measure against further injury. 
  • Physiotherapists insist on muscle strengthening and endurance exercises to increase your muscle and bone strength that helps prevent further episodes of thoracic back pain.

For further information on back pain treatments, head on over to Phyt Health, India’s first online digital physiotherapy platform that uses 3D Imaging and Artificial Intelligence to help provide accurate treatment plans catered to your concerns. Schedule your online consultation today!