Thoracic or upper back pain is an uncommon disorder that occurs far less often than cervical (neck) or lumbar (low back) pain. It can be present in the neck, chest, arms, shoulders, and low back, and can feel like it is coming from muscle tissue. Thoracic pain is not related to any specific problem affecting the spinal nerves or bone structures. Thoracic vertebrae are designed to hold us upright and provide stabilization and protection for the internal organs of the upper body. Thus, they have much more restriction of movement, which decreases stress and strain on the joints and discs between each segment. When thoracic
Most thoracic pain arises due to muscle or soft tissue problems such as:
Structural problems like scoliosis, kyphosis osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, ankylosing spondylitis, joint issues, or a spinal tumor can also occur. In rare instances, an individual can suffer a herniated thoracic disc or fractured thoracic vertebrae.
If stomach pain, weakness or numbness in the legs, or problems with bowel and bladder control are happening, seek immediate medical attention.
Thoracic pain is detected with a complete medical history and current symptom review by a physician, along with a full physical assessment. No further testing is typically needed, but an immediate MRI and X-ray with specialty consultation may be necessary if a vertebral fracture is suspected.
Thoracic pain is regularly relieved with conservative treatment. Pain medication, along with ice for the first 48 hours to control inflammation are standard recommendations. Heat is used after 48 hours to help loosen muscles. A well-designed physical therapy program with stretching and strengthening exercises will aid in restoring function. Massage and acupuncture are other alternatives to consider. If joint function has been impaired chiropractic manipulation may be beneficial. If the injured region is sensitive to touch, trigger point injections can help manage pain. If surgery is needed, vertebroplasty is a possibility.
If you are experiencing unrelieved upper back pain would like to find out if you are a candidate for the treatment options we provide, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.