Mid Back Pain
Mid back pain is also known as middle back pain or thoracic spine pain. The thoracic spine houses the ribs and it starts at T1 (the first thoracic vertebrae) which is where the neck begins, all the way to the bottom of the 12th rib. The mid back contains 12 vertebrae in the spinal column, but the upper 7 thoracic vertebrae are considered true thoracic vertebrae while T8 to T12 become increasingly more like cervical vertebrae.
T12 - L1 (the first lumbar vertebra) is about 3 inches below the iliac crest- or belt buckle level of the body. This means that the lower back does not have to support as much weight, which makes it takes more force to injure the low back versus injuring the mid-back.
The most common causes of mid-back pain are postural issues, arthritis, overuse injuries, sports injuries, and poor posture. A lot of times hip or leg problems can cause strain on the mid-back.
In most cases, spinal degeneration is a big reason why people have problems with middle back pain.
Mid-back pain can be felt in different areas of the spine depending on what is causing it. An injury near T4 might cause mid back pain that radiates toward the abdomen and groin area while an injury near T8 might cause mid back pain to radiate toward the buttock and upper thigh.
Mid-back pain is more common among people aged 40–60 years old, but can affect anyone at any age. Women are slightly more likely than men to experience thoracic spine pain because they have less natural muscle mass than men do.
These are some of the most common problems that can cause mid-back pain:
Mid Back Pain Treatments
Treating lower back pain is typically done with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroidal injections, or surgery. However, there is limited evidence on how to treat thoracic spine conditions.
If you have mid-back pain it is best to be treated by a physical therapist who can help with back exercises and stretches that can help decrease the intensity of your symptoms.
Mid Back Pain on the job:
Some professions which involve prolonged periods of forward bending (such as plumbers, electricians, and roofers) require workers to use lumbar supports to help provide the necessary support for proper posture.
Consistent practice of these exercises can be helpful in preventing mid back pain at work:
-Avoid bending your neck when looking up. Instead, look straight ahead and tilt your head upwards using your upper neck muscles.
-Raise heavy objects close to you instead of reaching out for them.
-Avoid sleeping on your stomach, instead of sleep on your back or side with a pillow supporting the natural curve of your neck and cervical spine.
Mid Back Pain Prevention:
It is best to prevent mid-back pain through proper body mechanics. Good posture plays an important role in preventing mid-back pain just like it prevents neck pain.
If you are experiencing mid-back pain, it is important to avoid any movements or activities that make your symptoms worse. Make sure to take breaks while at work and stretch regularly.
It is also helpful to start an exercise routine since physical activity can help prevent back injuries by strengthening muscles in the mid-spine region.
Frequently asked Questions:
Q: How is mid back pain diagnosed?
A: Diagnosing thoracic pain can be difficult and the diagnosis often requires a combination of tests, such as imaging and clinical exams.
The physical exam will include observation of the trunk muscles and spine during movements, palpation (pressing on an area of the body with your hands to feel for pain), and a neurological exam to look for possible nerve problems.
Some common tests that are used include:
-X-ray – may be helpful in ruling out other conditions such as arthritis, tumors, or fractures.
-MRI scan – can provide detailed images of soft tissues like muscles and disks. This is one of the most informative imaging tools available because it does not expose a patient to radiation. However, patients who have spinal surgery within six weeks should not have an MRI done due to the possibility of metal interference from hardware used during surgery.
-CT scan – can detect bone abnormalities around vertebrae as well as any protrusions that might irritate nearby nerves, but it can't provide information about muscle or disks.
-Bone scan – may be helpful in ruling out other problems such as arthritis, tumors, and fractures. It also helps determine if a fracture has recently occurred.
Q: What are the factors that affect mid back pain?
A: The main factor which affects how much someone will suffer from mid back pain is the cause of their injury. If they have suffered an injury as a result of an accident, such as falling off a roof while working as a roofer, then their symptoms will most likely be worse than if they had experienced similar injuries but were not doing any strenuous work at the time of the accident.
Another factor which commonly changes throughout one's lifetime is degeneration of the spine. The disks in between each vertebra get thin and compact with age, which can result in mid-back pain for someone who is not physically fit or that does not have a good diet.
Q: What are some symptoms of thoracic back pain?
A: Some common symptoms associated with mid back pain include fever/chills, a cough, a stomach ache, swelling in the arms and legs, shakiness or weakness, slurred speech, confusion or disorientation.
In any case where you have been experiencing these symptoms it is best to seek medical attention as soon as possible so they can determine what treatment would be most suitable for your condition.