Pain in Upper Back

The thoracic spine (also called upper back, middle back, or mid-back) is very different in form and function than the cervical spine (neck) or the lumbar spine (lower back). While the neck and lower back are designed to provide us with mobility, the thoracic spine is designed to be very strong and stable to allow us to stand upright and to protect the vital internal organs in the chest. Because this section of the spinal column has a great deal of stability and only limited movement, there is generally little risk of injury or degeneration over time in the upper back. There can be an injury to a disc in the upper back (such as a thoracic herniated disc or degenerated disc) that causes upper back pain, but such injuries are not common.

Your ribs attach to a long, flat bone in the center of the chest called the sternum and attach to and wrap around your back. If a nerve in this area is pinched, irritated, or injured, you may also feel pain in other places where the nerve travels, such as your arms, legs, chest, and belly.

Overuse, muscle strain, or injury to the muscles, ligaments, and discs that support your spine as well as poor posture are the most common causes of pain in the area. Osteoarthritis or breakdown of cartilage that cushions the small facet joints in the spine is also a factor.

Whenever it is difficult to breathe, it is imperitive to see your doctor. Sometimes pain with breathing could be from a broken rib or compression fracture of a vertebrae. However, if the pain is mostly in the morning and improves throughout the day it could be as simple as your mattress causing a muscle spasm which can appear as a variety of other severe problems. The type of pillow you use could also be a problem.

At the Healing Center of Scottsdale, we offer a unique treatment program with the ATM2 device. ATM2 stands for Active Theraputic Movement which is based off of Mulligan theory, a joint mobilization technique.

Jeff Juraska, PT

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