What Causes Middle Back Pain?


Coping With Middle Back Pain

Did you know that upwards of one-half of all working Americans have back pain as a symptom each year?  And that up to 80 percent of the population will have a “back problem” at some point in their life?

Back pain is also one of the most common problems to visit the doctor’s office – second only to upper respiratory infections.

So, let’s talk about middle back pain.

What Is Middle Back Pain?

Any area of your back – for any number of reasons.

The lower back is more prone to injury than any other part of the back. Our upper backs are also more likely to be sore simply because they get tense – we hold our stress there.

But our middle backs?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to have pain there – but it is less likely.

When we have back pain in the middle back, it is pain in the “thoracic” area of the back.  The “thoracic” area is where the T1 through the T12 vertebrae are housed – “T” standing for “thoracic.”

What Causes Middle Back Pain?

There are several things that could be causing middle back pain.  Some of the more common causes are a strain to the muscles of the back.  This could happen from overuse, such as after playing a sport or a work injury.

Your posture may also be the issue. Poor posture, especially when the posture is continuously poor, will cause the muscles to weaken, and back pain occurs.

Other more acute issues that can cause middle back pain include:

  • A pinched nerve, which most often happens near the ribs.
  • A fractured vertebra, which would typically happen in conjunction with some type of injury.
  • A herniated disc. A disc is the spongy material that is between the vertebrae that act as shock absorbers.  When the disc herniates or pushes out between two vertebrae, it can compress on the nerves of the spine.
  • Osteoarthritis is not an acute condition, but rather a chronic condition. However, it can cause both acute and chronic pain.  Osteoarthritis causes the bones of the vertebrae to wear down.  When this happens, bone spurs can occur. These bone spurs press on the spinal nerves.  Osteoarthritis can affect many areas of the body – the back is just one of many.

Middle Back Pain Treatment

Typically, treatment is noninvasive and aimed at reducing pain as well as strengthening the back.

Your physician may recommend several of these at-home treatments:

  • Contrast therapy is the use of hot and cold compresses to relieve the pain. For example, a hot back followed by an ice pack can be used alternatively on the middle back.
  • Take an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen, which can help relieve pain or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Getting regular exercise. Low-impact exercises such as yoga (which we will discuss in greater detail), walking, and swimming, as well as core strengthening exercises, are all helpful.

Improving your posture can help greatly.  As previously discussed, if your posture is poor, your muscles may be weak, and this can cause back pain.  To improve your posture – and thus your middle back pain – do the following:

  • Stand with your spine straight and your shoulders back.
  • Do not slouch.
  • When using the computer, take regular breaks to stand and walk around.

Next page: More middle back pain treatments including physical therapy, yoga poses for middle back pain, and general back pain tips. 

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