Occurring between the base of your neck and the bottom of your rib cage, mid-back pain can be felt in varying degrees ranging from mild to severe. This part of your back, known as the thoracic spine, is protected by your rib cage and an assortment of muscles, explaining why lower back pain is more common. Yet the bundle of nerves, ligaments, and discs found in this area are still susceptible to injury and stress. Treatment for mid-back pain is determined by the type of symptoms experienced and how any resulting discomfort is affecting your quality of life.
While low back pain can be non-specific in nature without a clearly identifiable cause, mid-back pain often has a mechanical source, usually in the form of disc or joint problems. It’s more prevalent in healthy individuals without any underlying issues, such as arthritis or degeneration. However, there’s research suggesting a connection between mid-back pain and spinal stenosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Disc herniation is considered among the most common mechanical causes of middle back pain. Conditions within the body, like stress-related muscle tension, can also be contributing factors. Additional mid-back pain causes can include:
- Vertebral fractures
- Degenerative disc disease
- Temporary inflammation from trauma
- Pinched nerves
In adults, mid-back pain is often linked to musculoskeletal symptoms that can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. Symptoms of most types of thoracic pain are short-lived if the underlying issue is benign, or not a significant contributing factor. Pain associated with a source originating in the middle back area can also be constant and progressive if the underlying cause is a major contributing factor, as would be the case with a herniated disc pressing on an adjacent nerve or if one or more discs supporting the middle part of the spine have worn down. Related symptoms can include mid-level pain that’s aggravated by movement.
Minimal treatment may be necessary for mild mid-back pain that responds well to initial rest and modification the activities that likely triggered the discomfort. If conservative treatments fail to provide relief after a few months, it’s worth exploring alternative treatments like acupuncture and regenerative injection therapy, a minimally-invasive procedure involving the stimulation of your body’s natural healing abilities to encourage tissue repair. Treatment possibilities also include:
- Epidural steroid injections
- Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS)
- Nutrition and wellness education
- Muscle relaxants or pain medication
- Spinal manipulation
More common in children and adolescents, mid-level back pain can affect anyone at any given time. Treatment of thoracic pain is more effective if you take steps to prevent re-injury such as being mindful of your posture while sitting or standing, warming up before exercising, and minimizing recurring stress. Most instances of mid-back pain respond well to initial treatment, especially if the discomfort is non-specific or related to muscle strain rather than any structural issues — and even then, the prognosis is good with early diagnosis and treatment.