Where Exactly is the Middle Back?
It is located between the base of your neck and the bottom of your rib cage. It’s known as the thoracic spine. The thoracic region is made up of a bundle of vertebrae, nerves, vessels, ligaments, discs and muscles, making it very sensitive to injury and high levels of stress. It’s an area of shock absorption, but more importantly, it allows the support of the ribcage to protect your body’s organs.
Back pain can range from a widespread area to a very concentrated area; it can be a mere annoyance or acute prohibitive pain. Different types of discomfort point to different problems and can usually give an idea of the cause. The fact that it is hurting signifies a problem; one back problem can easily lead to another if given ample time and the right circumstances.
Just about anything can cause your back to hurt, but pain in the middle back has a different set of causes than the lower back, since that area experiences different stressors. The main cause of the discomfort is the inflammation or irritation of parts of the thoracic spine. Swelling throws off the balance of the back, causing each part to interact differently with the other, and often opening up the possibility of new injury. Physical disturbances can cause the swelling and irritation, but conditions existing within the body can influence how it feels too. Muscle tension and stress also contribute to and are highly linked with all forms of back discomfort.
Below are just a few common conditions that may explain why your back hurts. While some of these may relate to your problem, only a visit to the doctor can confirm or diagnose your condition.
- Herniated discs
- Myofascial pain
- Pinched nerves
Both physical and mental conditions are included above. Your mental health can greatly influence the pain that you feel; understanding the connection between your brain and your body could help you treat the problem.
When to See a Doctor
You should consult with a doctor if the discomfort is enough to keep you from living normally or carrying out everyday activities. It is possible to treat pain from home, but to be on the safe side, a check-up can never go astray.
The discomfort could also be an indicator of a more severe underlying condition. Get to a doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Acute jaw pain
- Loss of control of your limbs or paralysis
If your back doesn’t hurt enough to warrant medical treatment, there are a few easy at-home tricks to help relieve the strain:
Stay active – Pain gets worse with inactivity. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, staying active can help keep it from becoming more severe.
Yoga- Incorporate yoga stretches into your daily routine. It keeps your muscles from becoming too tense and decreases your chances of further injuring your back. There are great ‘How To’ videos all over the internet that are perfect for Yoga newcomers.
Meditation- It may not be for everyone, but meditation is clinically proven to reduce stress; stress can cause or worsen the problem. So, no stress = better pain management.
Stay Positive- Your mental state and back discomfort are closely linked. Try and stay positive to alleviate stress. Just like a tension headache, there are tension back aches.
Medical Diagnoses and Treatment
You will be asked a series of questions about your overall health, activities, career and current medical conditions. It is likely that your doctor will conduct various tests, ranging from blood studies to medical imaging, in order to pinpoint your condition. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist depending on his findings.
There are many methods of pain control available, but it may take a few tries to find the right match. For over the counter relief try the following;
- Topical spray – Sprays have become more and more popular as a means to control pain. They are applied to a trouble area and let sit. Relief can be immediate, but often takes a few minutes to kick in. The only real downside to trying a topical spray is the strong odor.
- Creams and gels– Very similar to topical sprays; the main difference is that creams take a little longer to kick in.
- Pain killers– Over the counter products containing acetaminophen can usually help with mild discomfort.
If you want to try more astute forms of treatment you should look into:
- Massage Therapy – While it can be expensive, massage therapy can relieve stress and improve blood flow to your thoracic region.
- Physical Therapy – Your doctor can recommend you to a physical therapist in your area. The therapist will work on accommodating your trouble area and help to pin point the cause of your condition. Once fully diagnosed, the therapist can give exercises to take home with you to reduce and eliminate your discomfort.
- Surgery – Usually mid to upper back pain isn’t treated with surgery, but if you are suffering from a herniated disc or spinal fracture in the thoracic region, surgery might be the only way to go.
- Psychiatry– Visit a psychiatrist! Many back problems are tied to the function of the brain. You may not have a mental condition that requires psychiatric treatment, but often times anti-depressants are given to help relieve the discomfort. Millions have undiagnosed anxiety disorders; anxiety is a huge cause of back discomfort, so, keeping your brain healthy can help keep your back healthy too.
- Acupuncture– It’s been known to provide relief in a wide variety of cases, but acupuncture isn’t a clinically proven method of guaranteed pain removal; if the first few treatments don’t work, it’s likely that acupuncture isn’t the right form of therapy for you.
Pain in the middle back plagues hundreds of thousands of people world-wide; by understanding its causes, symptoms and characteristics, it can be treated and cured.