Thoracic Back Pain

What is thoracic back pain, and how is it treated?

One common type of pain that affects many individuals is thoracic back pain. This type of pain occurs in the middle and upper back region and can be caused by various factors, including poor posture, muscle strain, injury, and degenerative conditions. 

Thoracic pain can be a significant hindrance to daily activities and can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. It is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for thoracic pain in order to manage it effectively.

At OrthoNeuro, we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of thoracic spine pain. Our team of experienced orthopedic specialists in Columbus, Ohio uses state-of-the-art technology to identify the root cause of your spinal pain and develop a customized treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs.

Whether your pain is caused by a spinal cord injury or a degenerative condition, we have the expertise and resources to help you find relief. Don’t let thoracic pain hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward a pain-free future.

What is Thoracic Back Pain?

Thoracic back pain refers to any discomfort or pain that occurs in the middle and upper back region, between the cervical spine and lumbar spine. In some cases, thoracic back pain may be a symptom of more serious spinal pathology.

Anatomy of the Spine

The spine is divided into three main regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper and mid-back), and lumbar (lower back). 

The thoracic region of the spine consists of 12 vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. Each vertebra has a bony projection called a spinous process, which can be felt as bumps along the midline of the back. The thoracic spine also has ribs that attach to the vertebrae and form the rib cage, which helps protect the organs of the chest.

What Causes Thoracic Back Pain?

Thoracic back pain can be caused by a variety of factors related to the thoracic spine, which is the upper and mid-back region of the spine. One of the most common causes of thoracic back pain is poor posture, which can lead to muscle strain and tension in the thoracic region. Spending long hours sitting or standing in a hunched position can also cause the muscles in the back to become weak, leading to pain and discomfort.

While some of these causes are relatively benign, others can indicate serious underlying pathology. For example, herniated discs or spinal stenosis in the thoracic spine can compress nerves and cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the back and arms. Similarly, problems in the cervical spine (neck) can refer pain to the thoracic region, as the nerves in the neck and upper back are interconnected.

One possible serious spinal pathology that can cause thoracic back pain is ankylosing spondylitis. This is a type of inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spine and can lead to stiffness and pain in the thoracic region.

Another potential cause of thoracic back pain is rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune condition can cause inflammation in the joints of the spine, leading to pain and discomfort.

Vertebral fractures are another possible cause of thoracic back pain. These fractures can occur as a result of trauma or osteoporosis and can cause severe pain and limited mobility.

In some cases, even just strenuous lifting or other physical activity can lead to thoracic back pain. This can be due to strain or sprain of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the back.

Thoracic Back Pain Symptoms

Some of the symptoms associated with thoracic back pain include: 

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Neck pain 
  • Severe morning stiffness  
  • Limited range of motion in the back (making it difficult to move, stand or sit for extended periods of time) 
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing (which may occur if the pain is severe enough to affect the rib cage)
  • Fatigue

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if you have a history of serious spinal pathology or are at risk for such conditions.

How is Thoracic Back Pain Diagnosed?

When evaluating thoracic back pain, medical professionals will typically conduct a thorough physical examination, review the patient’s medical history, and order imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans, to identify the underlying cause of the pain. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of your thoracic back pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Thoracic Back Pain Treatment

There are several treatment options available to alleviate thoracic back pain and prevent complications. Here are some commonly used treatments:

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can be an effective way to treat thoracic back pain. A physical therapist can design an exercise program that strengthens the muscles in your back and improves your posture. This can help relieve pain and prevent future episodes of back pain. Physical therapy can also help prevent complications such as chronic pain and reduced mobility.
  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin, can help alleviate mild to moderate thoracic back pain. Stronger prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants or opioids, may be necessary for severe pain. 
  • Heat or Ice Therapy: Applying heat or ice to the affected area can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Heat therapy can help relax the muscles, while ice therapy can numb the pain and reduce swelling. 
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy can be an effective way to relieve thoracic back pain. A massage therapist can use different techniques to relax the muscles in your back and improve blood flow to the affected area. 
  • Spinal Manipulation: Spinal manipulation, also known as chiropractic care, involves the use of manual techniques to adjust the spine. This can help alleviate pain and improve mobility. 
  • Injection Therapy: If other treatments are ineffective, injection therapy may be necessary. This involves the injection of a local anesthetic or steroid medication directly into the affected area.

Find Relief From Your Back Pain Today

Are you suffering from thoracic back pain? Don’t let it hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest! At OrthoNeuro, we offer specialized care for thoracic back pain, providing a range of treatment options tailored to your individual needs.

From physical therapy to spinal manipulation and injection therapy, our team of experts in Columbus, OH is here to help alleviate your pain and prevent complications. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Medically reviewed by
Ying H. Chen, D.O., FACOS

Spine Care Specialists


“I recently had surgery on my lower back. I had heard that such surgery would result in pain and cause me difficulties in doing ordinary daily tasks but, I experienced no pain and was able to do normal activities at home and at church. Also, being a bee keeper, I was able to work the hives and extract the honey from most of the hives”

James B.