Experts say back pain is the most common reason people miss days at work, and the third most common ailment that drives people to see a doctor. In fact, 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Although we can experience middle back pain at any age, it is usually felt between 30 and 50 years of age, as the body ages, the spine is more prone to injury and often begins to show signs of wear and tear. That “machine” is not able to bounce back from activities as it once did.
There are different types of back pain. The upper back, the neck and shoulder area is where we commonly feel stress and tension. The lower back is where we feel strains from over-exertion. But the middle back can also be the source of pain and discomfort. The location we are focusing on is below the neck and above the bottom of the rib cage, in an area called the thoracic spine. There are 12 back bones — the T1 to T12 vertebrae — located in this area. In this location, you have the spinal cord, nerves, discs, muscles, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. Anatomically, the thoracic spine does not move as much as the spine in the lower back and neck because it is attached to the ribs, however it can become irritated or inflamed in response to a variety of mild to serious conditions.
What are Symptoms of Middle Back Pain?
Symptoms can be mild to severe and be a sign of a bigger health issue to be addressed. You may feel muscle ache, dull pain, a burning sensation, sharp or stabbing pain, muscle tightness or stiffness. It’s important to seek the diagnosis of a pain management specialist, Like Dr. Manvar for serious or prolonged middle back pain.
What are Causes of Middle Back Pain?
While there may be many causes of middle back pain, healthcare professionals are conducting on-going studies which show a correlation between mental health issues and back pain. Question is, can stress cause back pain? The answer is, yes. According to the American Psychological Association, being in a state of constant stress or chronic stress produces chemical and physical reactions in your body to try and protect you from harm. It’s the release of the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which causes muscles to involuntarily tighten. If those muscles remain tense for a period of time, you are left with back pain and headache. The mind-body connection goes both ways. While anxiety and depression can cause back pain, on the flip side, chronic back pain can lead to a patient being depressed dealing with the discomfort.
Additionally, specialists classify middle back pain into three categories: disease and disorders, structural issues, and systemic issues.
Structural Middle Back issues include:
- Poor posture: Slouching causes the muscles in your back to be overworked because they are being placed in unnatural positions. The repeated pressure on the spine is overworking the muscles and ligaments that are trying to keep the body in balance.
- Obesity: Extra weight on the spine puts undue strain on the muscles.
- Muscle sprain or strain: Sudden or awkward movements or lifting heavy objects improperly can tear or stretch ligaments and muscles.
- Fall or other injury: The middle back is more structured and rigid and less likely to get injured. However, injury from sudden force like taking a hard fall, car accident, blunt force trauma or sports-related injury, can be damaging and should be examined immediately by a pain management specialist.
- Aging: As we age, the loss of muscle mass, thinning bones and loss of fluid in the joints can make us more prone to back injuries.Disease and other disorders leading to middle back pain include:
- Herniated disc: A herniated disc also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc occurs when the inner, gel-like core of a disc in your back pushes against the outer ring of cartilage, putting pressure on a nerve. That pressure may cause pain, tingling or numbness in the middle back.
- Pinched nerve: This is when there is pressure put on a nerve by the surrounding tissues like cartilage, muscles and bone. You may feel pressure on one side of your back.
- Osteoarthritis: This is a degenerative joint disease. It occurs when the cartilage covering your joints breaks down, causing bones to rub together.
- Spinal stenosis: This is the narrowing of the spinal canal. That movement puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves causing middle back pain.
- Spondylitis: An infection or inflammation of the spinal joints.
- Fibromyalgia: A disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain which can affect the middle back.
- Fractures: Vertebrae fractures often occur following trauma, such as a fall, car accident, or sports injury, but can also occur with activity as simple as bending or twisting.Fractures can cause severe middle back pain that gets worse if you move or even take a deep breath. If you’re also experiencing incontinence (inability to control your urine), tingling, or numbness, your fracture may be impacting the spinal cord as well.
What are Systemic Issues Causing Middle Back Pain?
Other body systems may cause middle back pain, these issues can be concerning and life threatening. See Dr. Manvar immediately if you have any of the following: pain on one or both sides of your back, pain that radiates down one or both of your legs, neck pain, arm or leg pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in your arms, legs or chest, chest pain, loss of bowel or bladder control.
These are danger signs of potential problems like:
How to Get Relief?
If you are experiencing prolonged or chronic middle back pain, Dr. Manvar will give you a physical exam along with a neurological test as an indicator of any possible spinal cord or nerve issues. You will likely also receive imaging tests, like X-ray, CT scan, MRI or ultrasound, to check for fractures, bone degeneration or misalignment which may be the source of your pain. Results will determine the best course of action for pain relief.
Home remedies for middle back pain include: ice and heat, over-the-counter pain medications, stretching, or physical therapy.
Most importantly, if you are concerned about middle back pain you are experiencing, book an appointment with Dr. Manvar and Integrative Pain & Spine Institute to diagnose your pain and create a custom treatment plan for you to improve function immediately and without surgery!