Thoracic (Mid Back) Pain Shoulder Pain

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Shoulder Pain as a Symptom of Thoracic Spine Damage

The shoulder may experience pain due to trauma or a degenerative disease of the thoracic spine. If a nerve or blood vessel in the area is also compressed, the pain may radiate to the shoulder. Which area of the shoulder is experiencing pain will depend largely on which nerve in the thoracic part of the spine is being compressed.

Thoracic Pain Symptoms –Shoulder Pain

Although bulging or herniated discs are rare in the thoracic area of the spine, they can occur. Whether the result of a condition like arthritis or osteoporosis or an event like a car accident, nerve damage can occur in the upper-to-mid back. When it does, the pain can be felt in that area of the spine and in some cases can radiate down to the shoulder and the lower extremities including the arms, hands or fingers on the affected side.

Understanding Shoulder Pain as a Symptom of Thoracic Spine Damage

Thoracic spine damage can be the result of any injury or condition affected the upper-mid back. In addition to the vertebrae, the thoracic area of the spine also houses a complex web of muscles, bones, nerves, joints, and connective tissue. The discs between the 12 vertebrae are thin and less likely to become herniated or bulge due to the spine’s relative stability in this area. Because of the thoracic spine’s connection with the ribcage and sternum, this allows the body’s core to have limited flexibility, decreasing chances of injury. If the thoracic spine is damaged, then the nerves or blood vessels may become compressed and can cause pain in the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers. The nerve being compressed will determine which area of the shoulder is impacted.

Shoulder pain may be intensified for some patients due to poor posture, like sitting at a desk for long periods of time, for example. Patients experiencing shoulder pain as the result of a thoracic injury or condition may want to consider physical therapy or chiropractic care as initial treatment steps. These types of conservative treatments can help with the thoracic spine damage while decreasing pain in the shoulders by stretching, strengthening or manually manipulating the spine in a controlled environment. Correct posture and exercises would be taught to practice at home to help relieve the shoulder pain associated with thoracic spine damage.

Other ways to ease shoulder pain include using ice packs for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. The cold helps with the pain, numbness, or tingling. If the pain is making it difficult to work, an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like naproxen may help. It is important to discuss the causes and treatment options of shoulder pain associated with thoracic spine damage with an experienced spine health expert.

Deep tissue massage may also be recommended to ease the shoulder pain from thoracic spine damage. The massage therapist will need to be aware of the pain before starting the massage. The massage therapist will use long, slow strokes to work out any nodules or adhesions. It is imperative to drink plenty of water after the massage to flush the body of toxins. If these non-invasive treatment options fail to provide adequate shoulder pain relief, other treatments may need to be discussed in order to correct the thoracic spine damage.

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

  • Herniated discs, which are rare in the thoracic spine, can cause radiating pain in other parts of the body, including the shoulder
  • Compressed thoracic blood vessels and nerves can cause shoulder pain
  • Physical therapy, chiropractic care or deep tissue massage may provide relief from shoulder pain caused by thoracic spine damage
  • Shoulder pain may be intensified from both thoracic spine damage and poor posture

Health Tips For Shoulder Pain

  • Rest the upper body until the pain has subsided
  • Elevate the upper body with pillows
  • Ice the area for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Consider physical therapy or deep tissue massage to relieve thoracic and shoulder pain and tension

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