Board Certified Orthopedic Spine Surgeons

Call Today:
(925) 275.0700

Thoracic Spine (Mid Back) Pain

Your mid back or the thoracic spine, consists of 12 vertebrae. These vertebrae connect to the ribs and represent the rib cage area between the neck and the diaphragm.

Your mid back or the thoracic spine, consists of 12 vertebrae. These vertebrae connect to the ribs and ribcage area between the neck and the diaphragm.

What is mid back pain?

Mid back pain usually affects the lower thoracic spine where pain or discomfort can range from mild and brief, sharp and chronic that could last for months, averaging three months. The pain in the middle back occurs when any of the spine’s structure has inflammation or irritation. Other causes are due to diseases, injuries and structural changes.

Symptoms of mid back pain

The most common symptoms of mid back pain are due to the following:

  • Mental problems such as depression or anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headaches (migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches)
  • Back stiffness that happens in the morning upon waking up
  • Inflammation of the back
  • Pain around the neck, hip or shoulders
  • Sleeping disorder (difficulty in sleeping or staying asleep)

Other serious symptoms needing immediate medical care

  • Chest pain that includes tightness or pressure in the chest area
  • Problem in breathing, either difficulty to breathe or shortness of breath
  • Pain around the jaw
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of bladder or bowel movement
  • Weakening, numbing effect or worst paralysis in the legs

What are the causes of mid back pain?

There are many reasons why middle back pain can trigger and below are the usual causes:

Common causes

  • Injury due to accident or sports related injury
  • Improper posture
  • Arthritis
  • Disease
  • Strain in the muscles
  • Traumatic injury

Diseases that may lead to mid back pain

  • Osteoporosis – occurs due to the thinning or weakening of bones.
  • Osteoarthritis – which happens when the cartilage break down.
  • Osteomyelitis – either due to infection or inflammation of the bones.
  • Paget's diseases – which happens due to bone tissue loss and reformation.
  • Spinal stenosis – the narrowing of the spinal canal, causing a lot of pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

Causes due to spine's structure

  • Scoliosis – an odd-shaped spinal disorder wherein curving of the spine happens, either in S or C shape.
  • Kyphosis – another odd-shaped disorder where abnormality affects the upper spine.
  • Herniated disc – due to bulging or bone spur.
  • Muscle spasms – affects the skeletal muscles.
  • Spine fracture – due to car accident resulting to major injuries in the spine.

Life-threatening causes of mid back pain

  • Aortic Aneursym
  • Heart attack
  • Indigestion
  • Kidney stones
  • Multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer)
  • Fibromyalgia

Risk factors

Although, anyone can experience different levels of mid back pain, it usually affects individuals under the age of 30 and those 50 years old. The risky factors are:

  • Congenital or acquired such as kyphosis
  • Family history or disease
  • Being overweight (obese individuals)
  • Old age
  • Lifestyle such as living a sedentary life or sitting disease
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Weakening of the abdominal pain

Side effects of mid back pain

Complications can occur and may depend on one’s condition and treatment program. Here are some of the common side effects that any patient may experience:

  • Being absent most of the time from work or school
  • Chronic pain
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Disability

Treatment and drugs

Again, as mentioned above, treatment and drugs may vary from one patient to another and rely mostly on his or her present state and severity of the pain felt.

Physical therapy program

A licensed physical therapist will create a special program consisting of exercises to improve the patient’s flexibility, stamina and balance. Among the activities a patient is required to do are:

  • Tennis-ball-press
  • Press-hold-move techniques
  • Other exercises that encourages lifting, bending or twisting

Osteoarthritis treatment

If the pain is due to osteoarthritis, the doctor may suggest the following:

  • Over-the-counter painkillers
  • Maintaining ideal body weight
  • If the patient has chronic mid back pain here are some of the recommended treatments:
  • Prescription of muscle relaxants are given to improve the patient's mobility and reduce the pain or muscle tension.
  • Prescription of antidepressants to help the patient manage his or her depression and treat chronic back pain.
  • Vertebroplasty, this type of surgery is only performed by a spine specialist surgeon to relieve pain due to compression fracture.
  • Herniated disc removal, this delicate surgical procedure is done to remove any portion of the disc that is causing the blockage in the spinal canal.

The thoracic spine's curve is kyphotic, a "C"-shaped curve. This part of the spine has narrow and thin discs. Rib connections and smaller discs in the thoracic spine limit the amount of spinal movement in the mid back compared to the lumbar or cervical parts of the spine. There is also less space inside the spinal canal.

  • Common Mid Back (Thoracic) Conditions
  • Compressed Fractures
  • Herniated Disc
  • Bulging Disc
  • Scheuremann's Kyphosis
  • Mid Back (Thoracic) Trauma
  • Thoracic Infection
  • Thoracic Tumors