Mid Back or Thoracic Pain occurs a lot less frequently than lower back or neck pain. It’s my theory that it occurs less often because the mid back is protected by the ribs, as well as, because it has less range of motion than other areas of the spine. More protection, less motion, less risk of injury. (The Dr. Funk theory…lol!)
Mid Back pain can usually be one of four things.
- Simple back pain
- Rib pain
- Spinal nerve root pain
- Serious Red Flag pain
Simple Back Pain
Simple Back Pain means that pain is occuring due to relatively minor problems with the muscles, ligaments and joints of the thoracic spine. There is no spinal nerve root or vertebral disc involvement (pinched nerves or disc bluges or herniations).
Simple back pain can take up to six to eight weeks to heal and usually involves healing of the soft tissues around the thoracic spine. You can expect your chiropractor to perform spinal manipulation in the area, as well as other modalities, such as myofascial tissue therapy or deep tissue massage, stretching, and rehabilitation.
In some cases, your chiropractor may refer you to your medical doctor to get a muscle relaxant or pain med so you will be more comfortable during treatment.
Rib pain can be extremely painful. If a rib head has moved or “popped” out of place, you will find that taking a deep breathe is extremely painful. This is also (but not always) a sure sign of rib involvement, when your mid back is hurting. Rib pain can be classified as sharp pain radiating along the rib to the front of the chest. In some cases, you may have fractured a rib, so depending on the mechanism of injury, your chiropractor may get an x-ray to rule this out.
You can also expect about a six to eight week full recovery time with a rib. You also want to avoid sleep on the side of pain, as to take pressure off the area while it is healing.
Spinal Nerve Root Pain
Spinal nerve root pain is much more serious and the signs and symptoms are different than simple mid back pain. Nerve root irritation or compression is always associated with signs of radiating pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.
Serious Red Flags
If you are experiencing any of these signs and syptoms, you should have more concern. You will want to see a specialist (your chiropractor can give you a referral, if needed) to help solve the problem.
- Acute trauma (IE. car accident or fall)
- Constant progressive pain
- Previous history of cancer
- History of drug abuse or HIV
- Past history of a Spinal Inflammatory Disease
- Recent unexplained weight loss
- Severe restriction of bending forward
- Widespread neurological changes such as
- Recent inability to urinate
- Loss of anal tone that make defecate impossible or difficult
- Numbness affecting the anus, perineum and/or genitals
- Widespread or progressive loss of strength in the legs making walking difficult
- The appearance of a sensory level on pinprick testing in the buttock or leg area.
- Structural deformity noted in your spine
Most thoracic pain is benign in nature, but you will want to visit your chiropractor to rule out more serious conditions if pain is persistent and does not go away in a few days.