Thoracic (Mid Back) Pain Muscle Strain

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What Causes A Muscle Strain in the Thoracic Spine Region?

It is quite easy to strain a muscle in your mid-back (thoracic) region. Typically strains are caused by athletic injuries, but can also be caused by less strenuous activities like gardening and performing simple chores. Muscle strains in the back are caused by a back muscle tendon that is stretched or overloaded resulting in a partial or complete tear.

Understanding How Muscle Strains Can Cause Pain in the Thoracic Spine

To understand the pain that is generated by a back muscle strain, it is helpful to understand how the muscles of the thoracic spine are arranged. There are three key muscle groups in the thoracic area, the superficial, the intermediate and the deep or intrinsic muscles. These three groups form a column that runs along each side of the spine called the erector spina. The superficial muscles relate more to the neck. The intermediate muscles affect the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. The deep intrinsic muscles are located under the erector spinae and include the semispinalis, multifidus and rotatores. They run from the neck to the lower back. The deep intrinsic muscles stabilize the spine and serve the transverse and spinous processes of the vertebral columns.

Clearly, the muscle structure of the thoracic spine is complicated. Each muscle includes a full set of nerves, tendons and blood supply. Any tendon or ligament in the crowded erector spinae column can be twisted or strained causing intense muscle pain and possibly resulting in inflammation. Muscle strains can extend over several vertebrae and may impact the facet joints that connect your ribs to your spine. If this happens you may feel a local muscle strain and a radiating pain across your ribs.

While most muscle strains will heal within a week, there are strains that can affect the spinal structure and lead to chronic pain issues and permanent damage. Don’t play Mr. Hero if you have problems rotating your back or bending, or if you feel like you have a pinched nerve, or if you experience numbness or a tingling in your shoulders, arms or legs. All of these pain signals could indicate that there is more than a simple muscle strain involved. Don’t play around with your back health. See a doctor.

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 you strained your back, 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.

Muscle strains 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. Your doctor may request an X-ray or a CT scan if he or she is concerned that the injury may involve a fracture, tumor or issues relating to degenerative disc disease.


You Can Prevent Back Strains

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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