The upper back, known as the thoracic spine, is composed of 12 vertebrae. There are also discs that separate each area and absorb shock, with muscles and ligaments that hold the spine together.
Upper and middle back pain can occur anywhere from the bottom of your rib cage up to the base of your neck. It is not as common as low back pain or neck pain, as the vertebrae don’t flex or move as much as the bones in your lower back or neck. However, like many other types of back pain, upper and middle back pain can range from aching and stiffness to a sharp or burning sensation.
What causes upper and middle back pain?
Upper and middle back pain may be caused by:
• Overuse of, or injury to, the muscles, ligaments and discs that make up the thoracic spine. Examples include a fall or jolting from a car accident, being hit hard in the back, lifting or carrying something too heavy, reaching to put objects on a high shelf, carrying a heavy backpack over just one shoulder, repetitive throwing, bending or twisting or even forceful coughing or sneezing.
• Poor posture. Slumping or slouching when you sit or stand, especially when using a computer for a long time.
• Pressure on the spinal nerves from problems such as a herniated disc or rib misalignments.
• Osteoarthritis from the breakdown of protective cartilage that cushions your facet joints in the spine. Often caused by the discs degenerating that results in the vertebrae grinding and wearing down.
• Myofascial pain or muscular irritation of your connective tissue that protects and covers a muscle or group of muscles. This is often caused by overuse or deconditioning of these muscles.
Here are 7 simple ways to treat mild to moderate upper and middle back pain?
1. Exercise and stretches
Stretching and an active lifestyle are often recommended to help reduce back pain and speed the recovery process following an injury. Improving flexibility through stretching is also an excellent way to avoid future injuries.
As upper back pain is related to large muscles in the shoulder area, exercise to stretch and strengthen the muscles of your back, shoulders, and stomach are largely recommended. These muscles help support your spine. Exercise will also strengthen the muscle groups that support your mid-back to help relieve pain. Both specific exercises and stretches for this region together with general exercise, such as swimming, walking, cycling, are recommended. Strong muscles can help improve your posture, keep your body in better balance, decrease your chance of injury and reduce pain.
Regular Yoga sessions can also help relieve upper and middle back pain as they incorporate a number of positions and moves that use the upper and middle back muscles. Stretching exercises are best after a workout when your muscles are warmed up. You should take a break from exercise and stretching if your back hurts a lot, but try not to let too much time pass before you get moving again. Instead it’s good to return to your activities slowly.
2. Ice or heat
Heat or ice is often used to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling in middle and upper back pain. Heat can reduce pain and stiffness while ice can help reduce pain and swelling.
3. Manual therapy
Manual therapy includes massage or spinal manipulation. It helps reduce muscle tension and pain in the back and improve blood flow.
Your local chiropractor may use specific exercises combined with massage to relieve your upper and middle back pain. They should also advise you on exercises and stretches to do at home to aid relief of your pain and to offer support for this area.
4. Practice good posture
Poor posture puts stress on your back and can cause upper and middle back pain. Try to stand or sit tall, keeping your back as straight as possible and balance your weight evenly on both feet. Don't slump or slouch. When sitting, keep your shoulders rolled back and be sure to adopt suitable positions when using computers and driving. For example if you spend a lot of time at a computer, at home and at work, make sure the screen is at eye level, never below and not too far away so that you have to reach to it. Again if you spend a long time in the car raise the steering wheel and sit closer to it
An uncomfortable position or uncomfortable bed while sleeping / at night could lead to upper and middle back pain or exacerbate the pain you’re experiencing. A relatively firm mattress may also be beneficial as a soft mattress doesn’t give your back proper support. According to the Sleep Council a mattress should be changed every 7 years.
6. Learn ways to reduce stress
Stress can make your pain feel worse. Learning ways to reduce your stress may result in reduced pain. You could try deep breathing and relaxation exercises or meditation.
7. Stay positive
Although it can be difficult to be cheerful or optimistic if you are in pain, it’s important to stay positive because this can help you recover faster.
What to do if your pain gets worse?
When seeking treatment for your mid back pain, start with the end in mind. Look to the cause of the pain and not just the symptom. This will often lead you to a doctor who deals with proper spinal alignment and structure, your local Chiropractor. Discuss his or her experience and approach to mid back pain, including methods of diagnosis and treatment. Your chiropractor may decide to recommend specific corrective care, depending upon your symptoms upon a proper spinal examination and spinal x-rays.
Your in Better Health....
Dr Brian Hester
Back to Health of Anthem
Dr. Brian Hester, originally from Alabama, graduated from Life University in 1999 with his Doctorate of Chiropractic. He moved to Anthem, Arizona in 2003 and opened his wellness center. Dr. Hester's mission is to provide people in the North Phoenix area, with the tools they need to identify stressors in their life and the underlying causes of their health challenges. With Dr. Hester as a health partner, patients can make positive lifestyle changes and take control of their lives...... see more
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