What Causes Pain in Thoracic Spine and How to Treat it?

Jun 29, 2022

As with all kinds of back pain, diagnosing the cause of pain in thoracic spine can be a little tricky. Thoracic back pain is felt in the upper and middle parts of the spine. Reasons can vary from a minor sprain to a major vertebral fracture. In what follows, we will be explaining the causes of pain in thoracic spine and their possible treatments.

Where is the Thoracic Spine Located?

A human spine has 24 vertebrae in total. The thoracic region is the middle part of the spine and it is made up of 12 vertebrae labeled from T1 through T12. It is located at the back of the chest, just between the cervical and lumbar spine. 

Causes of Pain in Thoracic Spine

Research shows that the thoracic part of the spine is relatively safer than the cervical and lumbar as it bears less stress. This makes it the least vulnerable spinal area to injuries. Having said that, discussed below are some of the factors that can cause pain in thoracic spine.

1. Muscle Inflammation

One of the most common causes of pain in thoracic spine is muscle inflammation which is the result of overuse or strain on one’s spine. There are a lot of things that cause muscle inflammation including poor posture, weight lifting, carrying heavy backpacks regularly, sitting at a computer for long hours, etc. Muscle inflammation causes muscle spasms and pressure on surrounding structures such as ligaments, tendons, joints, and disks. As a result, the patient experiences pain, joint stiffness, and tenderness in the body.

2. Injuries

A sudden injury for example during a car accident can also damage the thoracic spine. Injuries can break one of the spinal discs or make them slip (a condition known as a herniated disc). This leads to extreme pain around the injured area. People who play combat sports are more prone to such injuries.

3. Wear and Tear

Over time, the human spine degenerates due to age-related wear and tear. Some factors can increase this process of degeneration for example family history, smoking, and Obesity. Degenerated discs cause back pain, numbness, tingling, and other similar problems.

4. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is characterized by the weakening of the bones in a body. It can make the vertebrae fragile and soft, increasing the chances of spinal fractures. Osteoporosis itself is not painful but under severe conditions, it can lead to cracks in the bones resulting in pain.

5. Poor Posture

Poor posture is found to be one of the most important causes of pain in thoracic spine. Nowadays, people spend a lot of time working on their laptops which can cause structural damage to the spine if proper care is not taken.

Treatments of Thoracic Spinal Pain

The treatment for pain in thoracic spine varies depending on the cause and severity. In most cases, the first step is evaluating the patient and determining which type of pain he/she is experiencing. Then, the doctor decides on a treatment plan that helps in managing symptoms and preventing further injury. Following are some of the treatments given to treat pain in thoracic spine;

1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapies can be very handy in treating thoracic spinal pain as such pain is mostly due to a spasm or a muscle pull. Therapies can improve mobility by working on the limited range of motion. Consistent physical therapies considerably reduce the pain in thoracic spine and help patients rehabilitate from the condition. 

2. Medication

Medication is used if the pain in thoracic spine is due to a muscle spasm or other minor reasons. The most common type of medication used to treat pain in the thoracic spine is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). NSAID blocks certain chemicals from being released from body cells, which reduces inflammation and allows you to heal more quickly. To avoid the adverse effects, you are advised to only take the prescribed medicines.

3. Surgical Treatments

If the pain in thoracic spine is due to an injury or damage, your healthcare proivder will recommend you surgical treatments. The doctor will run diagnostic tests to look for a spinal injury and will come up with the appropriate surgical treatment accordingly.

4. Lifestyle Changes

Modifying your habits cannot only help you treat pain in thoracic spine but also prevent you from getting it in the first place. To help you out with your thoracic spinal pain, we recommend making the following changes. 

  • Sleeping Position - Sleeping in an improper position is one of the major reasons for back pain. You can adjust your sleeping position with a little effort. Use a comfortable mattress and the right pillow for sleeping.
  • Exercise - Stretching and exercises can also improve your posture and overall health. In case of thoracic spinal pain, you can engage in dedicated exercises to improve your condition
  • Posture maintenance - Always use ergonomic furniture for your office work. Sitting in a comfortable chair allows appropriate alignment of the shoulders, spine, and hips.
  • Other Activities - Bend your knees whenever you are to lift anything heavy. Similarly, avoid carrying heavy backpacks when you go on vacation trips. Last but not least, whatever you do, always remember that a straight spine keeps you fine.

Talk to a Neurosurgeon Now!

If you have been experiencing pain in thoracic spine and don't know what is causing it, we would recommend you consult a specialist. Here at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery, Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe provides medical treatment to patients suffering from spinal diseases. She is an experienced neurosurgeon who has treated hundreds of patients over the years. You can read her patients’ reviews on Yelp and Healthgrades. To schedule an appointment, you can fill out the contact form or call us at (213) 369-4583.