Mid Back Pain & Chiropractic

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Mid back pain, also called thoracic back pain or upper back pain, is a common problem throughout life and many people will suffer from it at some point in their lives.

However thoracic back pain is not as well studied as neck pain or low back pain.

The causes of mid back pain can differ significantly from one person to the next.

Mid back pain is pain that is felt between the bottom of the neck and top of the lumbar spine.

There are twelve thoracic vertebrae, each attached via three joints to a rib on each side (thus six in total), which in turn is joined to the breastbone.

Causes of Mid Back Pain

Mid Back Pain and Chiropractic

Man With Mid Back Pain.

The most common cause of upper back pain originate from muscular irritation, intervertebral discs, spinal facet joints, ribs or soft tissue problems.

Commonly intra-scapular pain is referred from the lower cervical spine, (see Neck Pain and Chiropractic).

There are many causes of thoracic or mid back pain, including a lack of strength, poor posture, overuse injuries (such as repetitive motion), or a trauma such a car accident, work injuries or sports injury.

Often thoracic pain can be aggravated by twisting, side bending and with a prolonged bent spinal postures.

Other symptoms associated with pinched nerves in your mid back are: shortness of breath, increased heart rate, sweating, heart palpitations, and numbness.

Muscular Irritation

The most common causes of upper back pain seen by chiropractors are muscular irritation and joint dysfunction.

(See Muscle Spasm) If your spine misaligns in the mid back (between your shoulder blades), then the bones can pinch the nerves that exit between them, causing sharp pain. This can result in compensatory muscle spasms.

Rib Pain

Mid back pain can also be cause by rib misalignments. Pain from the ribs is usually described as sharp, stabbing pain.

You also often feel increased pain when you take a breath.

The sharp pain comes from the (intercostal) nerve being pinched, so the pain can either travel around your rib cage or pierce straight through your rib cage and out your breastbone.

Chiropractors deal with rib pain on a regular basis and do it successfully.

Rib pain tends to be acute in nature and therefore responds very quickly, usually within 2-3 chiropractic treatments.

Disc Herniation

Thoracic disc herniations are not that common, making up only 2% of all disc herniations documented.

Thoracic disc herniations are painful, with severe, deep, aching pain that often radiates into the lateral (side) chest wall and forward into the check.

The pain may be deep, gripping pain in the spine, radiating around to the chest.

Scheuermann’s Disease

Osteochondrosis ( or Scheuermann’s Disease) of the vertebral plates is sometimes associated with backache in the mid back or thoracic spine.

This is the most common cause of pain in the thoracic spine in adolescents, especially boys.

It is a hereditary back disease in which the back becomes rounded due to the bodies of the vertebrae becoming wedged shaped.

Symptoms include fatigue and tightness in the back after sitting for long periods and a feeling of weakness and pain, usually an ache following exercise or lifting weight.

This growth disturbance of the vertebral epiphyseal ring results in deformity of the vertebral end plate with formation of Schmorl’s nodes, vertebral body wedging, and a smooth kyphosis.

Taut hamstrings are often associated. Unless symptoms and signs are severe, corrective adjustments and therapeutic exercises may allow continued sports participation with close monitoring.


Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine in a sideways direction which causes the spine to be S-shaped.

Generally a scoliosis is asymptomatic, however when complications occur it is due to muscle weakness and joint ‘looseness’ on the convex side and muscle tightness and spasm with joint tightness on the concave side.

The symptoms will vary from case to case but will tend to be aggravated by strenuous exercise or prolonged postures such as sitting or standing.

To help these patients in the long term, apart from treating the underlying spinal problem with specific chiropractic adjustments, it is extremely important to address the postural problem and core muscle weakness.

Other Causes

The thoracic spine is a relatively common site for inflammatory, degenerative, metabolic, infective and neoplastic conditions. More complicated problems such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, osteopaenia or osteoporosis can be discussed with your Chiropractor.

Signs that you might have a mid back or thoracic problem

  • Sensitivity in the rib cage
  • Struggling for breath while breathing normally
  • Restricted range of motion when turning the torso
  • Ongoing poor posture
  • Chest pain from Sneezing or coughing
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Back pain that crossed to the front of the chest
  • Pain along the line of a rib
  • For women: pain along the bra strap area

If you have 3 or more of these symptoms you would benefit from a check-up with your chiropractor.

If you have been suffering from persistent chest pain and medical tests have been unable to determine the cause, you may be suffering from musculoskeletal injury or orthopaedic misalignment.

The chiropractors at Discover Chiropractic may be able to provide the relief you need. Contact us today to set up an examination to discuss your treatment options.

So, next time you have chest pain…think of your Chiropractor and feel better, naturally.