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Middle back pain: aka Thoracic Spine Pain

Chris Purcell
January 2, 2024

We continue to see lots of patients suffering with pain in the middle section of their back.  These patients have often had worsening pain in the area across days or weeks before they come and see us.  This article will help to explain the role that physiotherapy can play in management of thoracic spine pain.

Anatomy 101:
The thoracic spine, located in the mid-back region, consists of 12 vertebrae (T1-T12) that connect to the ribs, forming the thoracic cage. This part of the spine plays a pivotal role in maintaining stability and supporting our body's movements, acting as a bridge between the cervical and lumbar regions.

Common Sources of Pain:
Poor Posture: Modern lifestyles often involve prolonged sitting, hunching over screens, or slouching. This can lead to poor posture, causing strain on the thoracic spine and surrounding muscles.

Muscle Imbalances: Weakness or tightness in the muscles supporting the thoracic spine can disrupt its natural alignment, contributing to discomfort.

Herniated Discs: Although less common in the thoracic region compared to the cervical or lumbar spine, herniated discs can still occur, leading to localised pain and potential nerve compression.

Overuse or Repetitive Movements: Activities involving frequent rotation or lifting can strain the thoracic spine, leading to pain and dysfunction over time.

How Physiotherapy Helps:
A skilled physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment to identify the root cause of your thoracic spine pain. This may include analysing your posture, muscle strength, and range of motion.  Treatment techniques will include:/

Targeted Exercises: Physiotherapy involves tailored exercises to address muscle imbalances, strengthen supportive muscles, and improve posture. These exercises aim to restore proper alignment and alleviate pain.  We love our back balls for this section of the spine as they are a great way to self-mobilise the spine at home between physio visits.  

Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques, such as massage and joint mobilisation, can help release tension in tight muscles and improve the mobility of the thoracic spine.

Posture Education: Your physiotherapist will provide guidance on maintaining good posture during daily activities and offer ergonomic advice to prevent future issues.

Pain Management: Physiotherapy may include modalities such as heat or ice therapy to manage pain and reduce inflammation in the affected area.

Thoracic spine pain is a condition where traditional physiotherapy techniques remain highly effective.  Manual therapy and soft tissue therapy along with mobility exercises targeting the area will all help.  We love treating this part of the spine as we can generally start to make a big difference in your pain quite quickly.  If you have middle back pain, stop suffering, we are here to help.  

Usually, in a short block of treatment across 2-4 weeks, we can see a significant improvement in your middle back pain.

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