What Causes Middle Back Pain And How You Can Manage It
Middle back pain. You’re aware of lower back pain and chronic neck pain, but are you aware of middle back pain? Although it’s not as common as other ailments, one study found that nearly one in five adults experience significant pain or tightness in their middle back.
Like most spinal conditions, there is a long list of potential culprits. Thankfully, most can be eliminated with a handful of at-home stretches and regular visits to your local chiropractor. If you have an aching middle back, take a minute to learn what’s causing your discomfort, DIY strategies for minimizing it, and what to expect from chiropractic treatment.
Middle Back Pain Causes And Symptoms
Technically, “mid back pain” refers to issues specific to the thoracic spine (imagine the vertebrae that span the same section of your torso as your ribs). And it isn’t hard to see why this can be such an injury-prone part of the body. Injuries between the T1 and T12 vertebrae can stem from a variety of strains, work injuries, and other everyday problems:
- Slips and falls: Sudden trauma to the spine from a slip or fall can result in chronic and persistent aches and pains up and down the back, including the middle back.
- Repetitive motion injuries: Constantly repeating the same movement or task over and over can lead to overuse injuries that cause persistent stiffness, tightness, or soreness along the thoracic spine.
- Poor posture: Slouching or hunching puts undue stress on the muscles and ligaments in the middle back, restricting the full range of motion and often manifesting as pain that worsens when looking down.
- Herniated or bulging discs: The discs between the T1 and T12 vertebrae can become damaged, bulge out, or herniate, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves and resulting in severe discomfort.
- Pinched nerve: When a nerve in the middle back is compressed by the tissues or structures surrounding it (e.g., muscles, tendons, cartilage, or bones), pain may be accompanied by tingling, numbness, or weakness.
Symptoms of middle back pain can vary depending on the specific injury or cause, and may get better or worse without any change to your daily routine or spine health. Things to watch out for include:
- Aching or stiffness in the middle of the back
- Sharp, shooting pain when moving or twisting
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Weakness or difficulty moving the arms or legs
- Pain and restriction when taking a deep breath
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to seek medical attention – even if you’re not ready for consistent chiropractic treatment. You need to determine the underlying cause of your pain in case an at-home or DIY program could make the situation worse.
Mid-Back Stretches For Thoracic Spine Pain
If an accredited chiropractor has given you the go-ahead for light stretching and strengthening exercises, you have a lot of options. For example, you could follow Dr. Tieri’s 4-week flexibility and mobility routine. But to focus more specifically on the T1-T12 vertebrae, try these stretches for middle back pain:
Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Lower your hips back towards your heels, letting your arms stretch forward. Rest your forehead on the floor and breathe deeply, focusing on your middle back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat as desired.
Start in the same position as the child’s pose. But as you inhale, arch your back (pushing your belly toward the floor) while lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling. Next, exhale, round your spine (pulling it up and away from the floor) and tuck your chin towards your chest. Repeat the movement for 10-15 breaths, moving smoothly between the two poses.
Sit on the floor, legs stretched straight in front of you. Bend your right knee, cross your right foot over your left thigh, and place your right hand on the floor behind your back. Twist your torso to the right by placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and gently pushing away from it. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Foam rolling for mid-back pain
Lie on your back with your foam roller situated horizontally under your shoulder blades. Place your hands behind your head and slowly roll up and down the foam roller, focusing on tight areas in your middle back. Pause for a few seconds on areas that feel particularly tight or tender. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.
In many cases of chronic back pain, however, you’ll need to see a professional to truly deal with the issue. While some might recommend a physical therapist or an osteopath, a chiropractor should probably be your first stop. With a degree and years of study focused primarily on spine and nervous system health, a chiropractor is the best option for a personalized treatment program.
Chiropractic Middle Back Pain Treatments
If you schedule consultations with five different chiropractors, you might get five different treatment recommendations for thoracic spine treatments. There are dozens of different techniques for applying chiropractic principles, and each chiropractor has their own set of specializations. But your treatment will likely involve some form of spinal manipulation, which involves applying controlled force to the spine to restore proper alignment and mobility.
While the main focus of chiropractic care for middle back pain is eliminating discomfort, stiffness, and inflammation – there’s also a broader focus on improving posture and range of motion and promoting proper soft-tissue healing to prevent future injuries and pain.
The speed at which patients notice results from chiropractic treatment depends on the severity and underlying cause of their middle back pain. Some patients may notice immediate relief after just one session, while others may require multiple sessions over a period of weeks or months to achieve significant improvements.
Once patients get into a routine of regular chiropractic care, they report feeling more relaxed immediately after their sessions and often for several days or weeks afterwards.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for middle back pain depends on a variety of factors, including your overall health, lifestyle habits, and chiropractic adjustment frequency.
Relief From Mid Back Pain In Maple Grove
Dr. Tieri and the Total Spine Health and Injury Center team have helped thousands of patients in Maple Grove and Plymouth eliminate muscular or skeletal pain, including middle back pain. Our philosophy is centered around identifying the root cause of an injury and developing a personalized treatment plan (that doesn’t include drugs or surgery) to target underlying issues.
If you're struggling with middle back pain and are looking for a safe and effective way to find relief, schedule a consultation today.