When you think about back pain, the lower back area is what probably comes to mind. After all, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and one of the most common medical complaints in the United States. But your middle back can also be a source of discomfort. Therefore, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Let’s put middle back pain in the spotlight by discussing possible causes and treatment options.
Before discussing treatments, it’s important to know what might actually cause middle back (thoracic spine) pain in the first place. The middle back is the part of the spine with a dozen vertebrae that attach to the ribs. While this area is well protected, since it houses many vital organs, it can still be affected by:
• Soft tissue sprains or strains
• Age-related disc wear (degeneration)
• Herniated discs or fractured vertebrae
• Irritated or compressed nerves
• Overuse or sudden (acute) trauma
• Connective tissue (myofascial) pain
• Osteoarthritis and similar forms of arthritis
• Spinal tumors
If your middle back pain isn’t going away with a little rest, activity modification, over-the-counter medication, or the application of heat or ice, you may be referred to a Santa Monica spine surgeon to find out why. After gathering information about your symptoms and medical history, your spine specialist will probably perform image tests to narrow down the specific source of your discomfort.
Once the diagnostic test results are reviewed, an appropriate treatment plan can be recommended. Unless your symptoms are severe and debilitating, you’ll likely be advised to try non-surgical options first. While rest is okay for a brief time, too much rest can weaken supporting muscles, which is why conservative treatment usually involves physical therapy (PT). PT for mid-back pain can include:
• Massage therapy
• Controlled-movement exercises
• Posture-improvement routines
• Targeted stretches
In addition to a personalized PT routine, you may benefit from medication to help with pain and inflammation. Lifestyle adjustments may be recommended as well. Common lifestyle-related suggestions include:
• Avoiding sugary snacks and other foods that tend to make inflammation worse
• Getting regular exercise (including stretching)
• Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
• Improving your overall spinal posture, since lower back or neck issues could contribute to pain extending to your mid-back area
• Minimizing repetitive movements involving your mid-body area
Some people with middle back pain also see positive results with alternative treatments. A common option of this nature is chiropractic care. Adjustments to your thoracic spine may provide relief by increasing circulation and taking pressure off the spinal nerves.
Most instances of mid-spine discomfort are treatable with conservative care options like the ones discussed above. If this isn’t true in your case, you may benefit from surgery to correct a structural problem that’s contributing to your symptoms. Some common procedures include fracture stabilization, thoracic spinal fusion, nerve decompression, and total disc replacement. Santa Monica patients who are experiencing severe mid-back pain should see a spine specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you’re experiencing long-term or debilitating pain in any area of your back or neck, reach out to a spinal health specialist as soon as possible. The industry-leading physicians at The Spine Institute use the most innovative diagnostic techniques and state-of-the-art treatment methods. We can determine the best course of action to help you find relief for your pain. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.