Thoracic (Mid Back) Pain Arm Pain

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Arm Pain as a Symptom of Thoracic Spine Damage

When traumatized, the complex system of vertebrae, muscles and nerves that makes up the thoracic spine can lead to pain in various parts of the body. If blood vessels or nerves become compressed, the result can include pain in the arm and possibly numbness or tingling in the hand and fingers.

Thoracic Pain Symptoms – Arm Pain

The thoracic spine is a network of bones, muscles, joints, connective tissue, and nerves located in the upper and middle back. When this part of the spine becomes damaged due to injury or degenerative disease, it can create pain in the upper back which can radiate to the arms when spinal nerves are also affected.

Understanding Arm Pain as a Symptom of Thoracic Spine Damage

The thoracic spine includes 12 vertebrae labeled T1-T12. Vertebrae T1-T10 surrounds the organs as part of the ribcage and connects at the sternum or chest bone. This connection gives the core and most of this area of the spine limited flexibility and thus, less likelihood that it will be injured. The vertebrae T11 and T12 do not connect to the sternum and they function to protect the kidneys. This allows a bit more flexibility and less stability than the rest of the thoracic spine. Thoracic spine damage can be caused by accidents, or diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis, that may contribute to the breakdown or degeneration of spinal discs over time. Herniated discs are rare in the thoracic spine due to thinner discs and more stability, however if a herniated disc is found between vertebrae T1 and the cervical vertebrae C7, the result will usually be a C8 nerve root impingement. This impingement can cause pain in the arms, hand, and fingers. It may also contribute to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities.

Patients may find daily tasks uncomfortable with arm pain related to damage in the thoracic spine. Arm pain may limit the ability to write, type, cook, use a phone, or even drive. Patients employed outside of the home may find it difficult to perform job duties as expected. Getting to the bottom of what is causing the arm pain is crucial. Thoracic spine damage that is left untreated can place pressure on other parts of the spine which can then also become damaged over time. From conservative treatment options like medication, physical therapy and chiropractic care, there are a number of ways that arm pain as a result of thoracic spine damage can be treated and resolved. The first time arm pain is felt, seek medical attention. Although arm pain as a symptom of thoracic spine damage may be the diagnosis, arm pain can also be a symptom of other serious life-threatening conditions that should be addressed by your health care provider right away.

At-a-Glance: Arm Pain as a Symptom of Thoracic Spine Damage

  • Seek medical help the first time arm pain is felt
  • Anytime a blood vessel or nerve is compressed in the thoracic spine, pain is felt elsewhere in the body, including arms
  • Physical therapy, chiropractic care and/or deep tissue massage may help to decrease arm pain by realigning the body
  • Arm pain caused by thoracic spine damage may also include numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand and fingers

Health Tips For Arm Pain

  • Rest by elevating arms on a pillow until pain subsides
  • Use ice packs for 10 to 15 minutes at a time
  • Take an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like ibuprofen as needed and only when recommended by your spine health expert
  • Discontinue any strenuous activities until the pain has subsided and you have been evaluated by a physician

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