Pain in the thoracic spine is known as thoracic back pain. The thoracic spine is found largely between the shoulder blades at the rear of the chest (the thorax). Connecting with the cervical spine above and the lumbar spine below, the thoracic spine runs from the base of the neck down to the abdomen. Your thoracic spine anchors the rib cage too.
What is the Prevalence of Thoracic Spine Pain?
Researchers were tasked with determining how many people suffer from back discomfort, and the response was “between 4 and 72 people out of 100.” Political pollsters, who had never heard such precise predicting before, instantly enlisted these experts to anticipate the outcome of the next general election.
The truth is that different surveys will yield different results unless the question is phrased in the same way. Teenage girls are known to be more vulnerable to thoracic back discomfort. The terrible backpack is to blame. I’m not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to eliminate school lockers and force children to carry a hundred pounds of books on their backs to and from school every day.
The thoracic spine is a relatively common site for inflammatory, degenerative, metabolic, infective and neoplastic conditions.
Who is Affected By Thoracic Spine Pain?
Surveys to determine how many people suffer from thoracic spine discomfort yield a wide range of results. When asked if they’ve ever had thoracic spine pain, one survey found 4 out of 100 persons had it, while another found 72 out of 100 people had it. It appears to be more prevalent among children and teenagers, particularly females. Backpack use, the height of school chairs, and homework issues were all mentioned as causes of thoracic back pain.
Mental health issues appeared to be a contributing element. It also seemed widespread during the transition from early adolescence to late adolescence. Adults with thoracic back discomfort frequently experience aches and pains throughout their bodies and difficulty doing daily duties. In older adults, arthritis in the thoracic facet joints can cause middle and upper back pain, as can compression fractures of the vertebrae due to osteoporosis.
Symptoms Of Thoracic Back Pain
Pain in the thoracic spine is common, short-lived, and minor concern. It is, however, more likely than neck or lower back discomfort to have a significant underlying cause.
These are the warning signs to check for if you have thoracic spine pain:
- Extreme lower back pain and neck pain.
- A serious injury occurred recently, such as a vehicle accident or a fall from a great height.
- In persons with ‘thinning’ bones, a minor injury or even heavy lifting may be enough (osteoporosis).
- When the pain first appears, you must be under the age of 20 or over 50.
- A history of cancer, drug abuse, HIV infection, immunosuppression (a disease that causes your immune system to be suppressed), and long-term use of steroids (about six months or more).
- General malaise, such as a high temperature (fever), chills, or unexplained weight loss.
- A recent bacterial illness (bacterial infection).
- The constant, excruciating pain is becoming worse.
- Pain that is not the result of a sprain or strain (non-mechanical).
- Pain that persists despite treatment for 2-4 weeks.
- Pain in the morning is accompanied by considerable stiffness.
- Changes in the spine form, such as lumps or bumps appearing.
- Severe pins and needles, numbness, or weakness in the legs worsen with time.
- Inadvertently passing wee or faeces (can indicate pressure on the spinal cord).
What Causes Back Pain In The Thoracic Region?
Inflammation of the thoracic spine‘s muscles or soft tissues is the most prevalent cause of thoracic back pain. Inflammation can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Thoracic herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- An unexpected sprain or strain (as in car accidents or sports injuries).
- Sitting or standing in a slouched stance for an extended period.
- Carrying your belongings in a backpack.
- Strain or tear in ligaments
- Long periods spent in front of a computer.
- A lack of musculoskeletal strength
- Poor posture
- Overuse injury occurs when a movement involving the spine’s thoracic region is repeated repeatedly (as in sports or at work).
The following are some of the less common causes:
- Thoracic stenosis (narrowing of a section of the spine) – mainly due to wear and tear.
- Slipped discs are frequent, but they only cause discomfort in a small percentage of cases.
- Vertebral fractures (the bony components that make up the spine).
- Infection of the spine.
- Shingles (or shingles) (especially in people over 60 years).
- Osteoarthritis of the spine.
- Ankylosing spondylitis is when the joints between the vertebrae become inflamed.
- Scheuermann’s disease is a condition in which the spine’s joints become inflamed, causing spinal curvature.
- Tumors of the spine.
Suppose the pain is mild and has a clear cause (for example, it started after participating in a tug-of-war competition). In that case, your doctor will likely recommend treatment before ordering testing.
Because low back pain in the thoracic region, rather than the neck or lower back, is more likely to be serious, your doctor is likely to recommend tests if the pain persists, is severe, or is accompanied by any of the ‘red flag‘ symptoms listed in the Symptoms section.
The conditions will determine the tests the healthcare professional wishes to rule out. Blood tests such as a full blood count and inflammatory markers, as well as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, are likely to be included. A conventional ‘plain’ X-ray won’t tell you much unless your spine has an odd look if a fracture is detected.
- If there is an underlying cause, it will need to be treated independently.
- Anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen) to help treat chronic pain and offer instant pain relief from chest pain.
- An injection given under X-ray vision may assist if the pain is coming from a joint in the spine (a facet joint) (imaging-guided intra-articular injection).
- Laminectomy surgery, which opens the covering of the spinal canal to treat a slipped disc causing thoracic spine discomfort, can be a risky procedure. Percutaneous thoracic intervertebral disc nucleoplasty (percutaneous thoracic intervertebral disc nucleoplasty) is a less dangerous procedure that involves surgery via the skin.
- Herniation or degeneration of the disc, causing nerve inflammation can be treated with epidural steroid injections.
- The prognosis is determined by the underlying reason, age, and overall health.
- While many cases resolve in a few weeks, it’s important to remember that pain in the thoracic spine is more likely to have a significant cause than discomfort in the neck or lower back.
- Physical therapy to help increase your flexibility, strength, and balance.
- Soft tissue massage, muscular and trigger point releases Light thoracic spinal mobilisations can help offer pain relief
Frequently Asked Questions:
When is thoracic pain a red flag?
Your thoracic pain might be red-flagged if you’ve any of the following conditions:
- Symptoms like fever, chills, and unexplained weight loss.
- Any bacterial infection recently
- Minor trauma with active osteoporosis
- Constant, severe, or progressive pain
- Any structural deformity
- History of immunosuppression, cancer, or HIV
- Age at onset below 20 or over 50 years
When should I be concerned about thoracic back pain?
You should be concerned about your thoracic back pain if your back pain results from a severe cause like after an accident or trauma, and the pain is just getting worse day by day even after taking medication.
You should also be concerned if you got a recent infection (bacterial), have a weak or compromised immune system, undergo spine deformation or presence of lumps, and feel weakness or numbness in your lower limbs that worsens with time.
What are the causes of Thoracic Pain?
Thoracic Pain may be caused by:
- Sudden trauma (car accident)
- Persistent use of a backpack
- Overuse injury
- Injury of a ligament of the thoracic area
- Prolonged sitting with poor posture
- Muscle irritation or strain
- Vertebral fracutre due to osteoporosis
- Nerve compression of the thoracic spine
- Degeneration of vertebral disc in the thoracic area
How should I sleep with thoracic pain?
Sleeping straight on your back is the most appropriate way to sleep if you have thoracic back pain. Lying flat on your back help you keep your spine in a neutral spot and your chances of pinching your nerve decrease. To sleep more comfortably, you can also use a pillow underneath your head and knees.
What does a thoracic MRI show?
A thoracic MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging shows the thoroughly detailed images of your vertebrae, surrounding organs, and soft tissues to help detect many conditions, including herniated discs, fractures, inflammation, tumors, spinal cord damage, infection, and improper spine curvature.
How do you relieve thoracic pain?
The treatment of thoracic pain depends upon its underlying cause. Most commonly, the thoracic pain is caused by muscle strain or poor posture, so you should opt for stretching, massage, or some pain-relieving medication such as ibuprofen. Some other treatments are:
- Proper physical therapy
- Heat or ice therapy to reduce muscle pain
- Modifying your sleeping position
- Home remedies
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