Thoracic (Mid Back) Pain Muscle Spasm

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What Causes A Muscle Spasm in the Thoracic Spine Region?

Muscle spasms in the mid-back (thoracic) region are common and are often described by those who have them as ‘back attacks’.  Some individuals can only find relief by laying down on the floor for extended periods of time. The event can be triggered by an action as simple as picking up a toy or a newspaper, or rotating your spine too quickly. The fundamental cause for spasms are usually structural. While the spasms and pains will improve with time, remember that pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. It is wise to contact a back expert to identify the cause.

Understanding How Muscle Spasms Can Cause Pain in the Thoracic Spine

A mid-back spasm can also be caused by an athletic injury, an injury from an accident or just overuse. Usually the fundamental cause of a mid-back spasm that triggers pain or a ‘back attack’ will have a local origin. But that does not mean that it is easy to identify. It is important to understand that the structure of the thoracic spine is complicated. For example, the movement that caused the debilitating spasm was probably preceded by several small strains to your vertebrae, ligaments or facet joints that you may not have even felt when they happened. These stressors can develop slowly over time as inflammation sets in or as osteophytes develop. These small structural changes can suddenly activate a nerve that initiates your muscles along your spine to spasm.

The middle back is not the major load-bearing region of the spine. That role belongs to the lower back (lumbar) region. However, the mid-back does support the ribs which curve around to the front of the body, connecting to the sternum, the strong bony structure in the middle of our chest.

The thoracic spine’s curve is kyphotic which is Greek for ‘hump’. This “C”-shaped curve with the opening of the “C” in the front is a clever design that allows room for our lungs, heart and other essential organs in our rib cage. This part of the spine has very narrow, thin intervertebral discs. Rib connections and smaller discs in the thoracic spine limit the amount of spinal movement in the mid back compared to the lumbar or cervical parts of the spine. The vertebrae in this region are smaller than in the lumbar spine. There is also less space inside the spinal canal in this region.

There are many potential focal points that can serve as the primary cause of your spasms. The thoracic region is composed of 12 vertebrae with each vertebra connecting to two ribs. There are 12 pairs of spinal nerve roots. Each rib is connected to the spine with two facet joints that articulate slightly to provide very limited movement for the ribs.

Your back doctor will begin the diagnosis process by performing a physical exam and by learning your complete history, especially any spine issues in your past. He or she will ask you what you were doing before your back spasm occurred, the location of the pain, and what you did to relieve the pain. Your doctor will probably check your reflexes, range of motion and your strength. In some cases, your doctor may suggest additional tests if he or she suspects that the spasms are caused by degenerative disc disease, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis.

Muscle spasms in the mid-back region are usually treated conservatively with a combination of treatment options that may include physical therapy, massage, bracing, chiropractic sessions and rest. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain relievers and muscle relaxers. In most cases, surgery will not be required.


You Can Prevent Back Spasms

Begin a Stretching Routine

  • Yoga and Pilates are ideal for creating a routine for low-stress stretching.

Shape Up

  • Exercise does wonders for your heart and back health.
  • Plus it is great for burning up calories.

Strength Training

  • Weight training builds muscles and helps reduce weight

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