Back And Rib Pain: Causes Of Upper To Middle Back And Rib Pain
Issues with your muscles, ligaments, or ribs in your back can often cause rib pain in the back. The middle and upper part of your spine is called the thoracic region and it helps to support your upper body. Irritation, inflammation, back rib injury, strained or pulled back muscles, or a herniated disc can all cause pain in ribs and back.
Back rib pain or middle back pain is less common than lower back pain. However, pain in your upper or middle back can cause a lot of discomfort in your day-to-day activities. Depending on the cause of mid-back pain, you may have dull aches and discomfort between your shoulder blades. Sometimes, the back pain can feel as sharp and jabbing discomfort that suddenly gets worse. Or, back muscle stiffness may make lifting your arms sore and painful.
There are many ways to get rid of back and rib pain without having to turn to painkillers. For example, hot or cold compresses can help to increase blood circulation and speed up the healing process. Or, you may have to improve your posture to ease nagging pain and prevent rib pain in your middle back. In many cases, stretching exercises strengthen and flex the strained muscles and ligaments in your middle back to relieve pain.
Heat Or Ice Treatment
Warm compresses or cold compresses can help to quickly relieve pain in your rib cage caused by injuries, inflammation, or other painful causes.
According to researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, a cold pack or compress can help to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in the first 48 hours after an injury. After that time, you should use a warm compress to increase circulation and reduce muscle spasms and stiffness.20
To make a warm or cold compress to treat rib pain in your middle or upper back, this is what you should do:
Cold compress for injuries to your middle back
Warm compress for back rib pain
Hot and cold compresses are also excellent natural remedies for relieving lower back pain.
What Are The Symptoms Of Rib Pain
Rib cage pain can occur anywhere below your ribs, in your upper or lower chest, or above your belly button. Sometimes, the dull to sharp pains may radiate to other parts of your body like your shoulder blade, left arm, or back. Very often you will just feel pain on one side of your rib cage.
According to Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD, some symptoms of rib cage pain include:1
- Sharp aching pains in the center of your chest
- Squeezing pressure in the center of your rib cage because of cardiac-related issues
- Sharp stabbing rib pains when you breathe deeply or lie down
- Burning sensation in the center of your chest especially after eating
- Feeling of fullness under your rib cage
- Tenderness around your sternum
- Sudden severe pains under your ribs
Depending on the cause of your rib pain, you may also experience nausea, dizziness, cramping abdominal pains, shortness of breath, or a fever.
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Pain In The Left Side Under Ribs
A pain in the left side of the body under your ribs may cause you panic because of the possibility that it is heart-related pain. While it is true that left sided rib cage pain could be a sign of angina or another serious cardiac issue, there are other reasons for such pain.
Your heart is located under your ribs, slightly to the left of your middle chest. If heart-related issues cause chest pain, this will feel like tight squeezing, pressure, or chest tightness under the left rib cage. Usually, the pain will spread to your left arm, jaw, and neck.
However, your left lung, spleen, and left kidney are also protected by the left rib cage. Any condition affecting these organs will result in mild to severe aches and pains under your left ribs.
Of course, blunt trauma to your left ribs or pulling a muscle will result in localized pain in the left side. You might also notice that your ribs are tender or sore to touch.
What Is Upper And Middle Back Pain
Upper and middle back pain is pain that occurs anywhere from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage. Your ribs attach to the sternum and attach to and wrap around your back. If a nerve in this area is pinched, irritated, or injured, you may also feel pain in other places where the nerve travels. For example, you may have pain in your arms, legs, chest, and belly.
The upper and middle back is called the thoracic spine. Back pain in this area is less common than low back or neck pain. That’s because the bones in the upper and middle back don’t move as much as the lower back or neck bones.
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Learn The Symptoms Of Each Condition And What Treatment To Expect
Pain in your chest can be scary you may even be worried youre having a heart attack. But the pain youre experiencing might not actually be coming from one of your organs. The ribs themselves, and the area surrounding them, can also cause discomfort. Here are three conditions that can cause rib cage pain, and the telltale symptoms doctors use to tell them apart.
How Can The Pain Be Treated Juans Story
Juans pain around the ribs and back symptoms with spasms began in 2007, and he presented to our clinic in 2020. Any movement, rotation, or flexion/extension made the pain worse, while rest and medication made the pain better.
Previously, he had tried ozone injections, steroid injections, and facet injections, which provided temporary relief. Radiofrequency ablation at the T8-T11 facet joints provided relief for only about six to eight months. He had also developed tingling in his right ring finger and pinkie, pain in his right elbow, and weakness in his right hand. This was likely coming from irritation of the brachial plexus by his ribs.
We approached Juans problems differently, looking at what was causing all of these issues. In particular, one of the ligaments in the back of his spinal canal was loose and buckling, which was irritating nerves. Hence, we concentrated his own blood platelets to inject into that specific ligament to cause some healing and tightening. In addition, we treated the irritated thoracic nerves by injecting a platelet lysate around the nerves .
As you can see, theres quite a bit that can cause pain around the ribs and back symptoms. The first order of business is getting an accurate diagnosis of why you hurt, which is what we did with Juan. Rather than injecting Juan with steroids that could harm tissue or burn nerves, we focused on the root cause of his problems and tried to improve the function of the spine.
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How Are Broken Ribs Treated
Treating broken ribs has changed in recent years. Doctors used to treat a fractured rib by wrapping the torso tightly to help keep the affected rib from moving. But this type of bandaging can restrict your breathing and occasionally lead to respiratory problems, including pneumonia.
Today, broken ribs are usually left to heal on their own without any supportive devices or bandages.
Depending on your pain level, your doctor might prescribe something you can take for pain relief. In the first few days after a rib is broken, an injectable form of anesthesia may help numb the nerves directly around the rib.
You can also apply an ice pack to the area to reduce pain and decrease swelling. Just make sure you wrap it in a thin towel first.
If possible, try to sleep in a more upright position for the first few nights after the injury.
Very serious rib fractures, such as those that make breathing difficult, may require surgery. In some cases, this may involve using plates and screws to stabilize the ribs while they heal.
While you certainly wouldnt wish for a serious rib fracture, the benefits of having surgery with plates and screws typically include shorter healing time and less pain than leaving the ribs to heal on their own.
Too Much Calcium In Your Blood
When the bones are damaged, calcium is released into the bloodstream. Too much calcium in the blood is called hypercalcaemia. This makes you feel very thirsty, sick and tired. You might also pass a lot of urine, as your body tries to get rid of the extra calcium. If hypercalcaemia is not treated and gets worse, it can make you drowsy and difficult to wake.
About 30 out of 100 people with myeloma have symptoms like these when they first go to the doctor.
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Conditions That Cause Rib Pain
When you have pain in your ribs, you might be wondering whats causing so much discomfort. Is it your heart, or a less severe condition thats making your ribs ache? Unfortunately, there are several conditions that can lead to rib pain, each one a little different than the next. The good news is that most rib pain isnt a cause for concern.
At Pinnacle Health Chiropractic in Kirkland, Washington, our team is led by our expert chiropractor, Dr. Jason Ablett. Whether your rib pain is the result of a pulled muscle, or another more complicated condition, Dr. Ablett helps you to ease the pain through a variety of treatment modalities.
What Causes Pain Around The Ribs And Back Symptoms
The thoracic spine and ribs are like a no mans land for many physicians, including spine experts. While many physicians are comfortable treating and diagnosing neck and low back problems when it comes to things like pain around the ribs and back symptoms, they draw a blank.
First, lets define what we mean by pain around the ribs and back. Basically, the pain wraps around the back of the rib generally at least to the side and at times all the way to the front. There is also upper-back pain that often accompanies this pain. Movement usually leads to intense pain or makes it feel like something is out of place and needs to be popped back in place. Sometimes specific motions or activities will make this better or worse.
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Musculoskeletal Chest Pain Causes
Rib pain may be the result of musculoskeletal issues, such as the following.
- Rib joint inflammation: There is a junction between the rib bones and the rib cartilage that can become inflamed and cause rib pain or chest pain. The cause of this inflammation and pain is unknown. Costochondritis occurs when the inflammation is at the rib attachments to the sternum.
- Pulled muscle: There are small muscles in between each rib that can become strained or pulled. Heavy lifting or intense coughing are two common causes of chest wall muscle strain. Strained muscles in the chest can cause pain that feels like rib pain.
- Pain syndromes: There are several pain syndromes that cause rib pain. A pain syndrome is defined as chronic pain with an unclear cause. Lower rib pain syndrome, Sternalis syndrome, and Tietze syndrome are some examples of pain syndromes that present with rib pain.
How Are Rib Injuries Diagnosed
Usually, a rib injury diagnosis is made from the details you give to the doctor plus a doctor’s examination. Ribs which are broken are painful, particularly with movement, deep breaths or coughing. The injured area is tender when pressed.
Rib fractures may show on a chest X-ray. If a rib fracture is suspected, the main purpose of a chest X-ray is to look for complications rather than to diagnose the fracture itself. Therefore, if complications are not suspected and you are otherwise well, you may not need an X-ray. X-rays are not used unless necessary, because of the radiation involved. This especially applies to women who are, or who may be, pregnant.
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What Is Costochondritis
Costochondritis is a harmless swelling of cartilage in your chest. The cartilage connects your ribs to your breastbone , creating the costochondral joint. Costochondritis feels like a sharp or aching pain. The pain can start suddenly or develop slowly and spread across your chest.
Because the pain is in your chest, you might misinterpret costochondritis as a heart attack.
When To Call The Doctor
- Pain that does not allow deep breathing or coughing despite using pain relievers
- Cough or increase in mucus that you cough up, especially if bloody
- Shortness of breath
- Side effects of pain medicine such as nausea, vomiting, or constipation, or allergic reactions, such as skin rashes, facial swelling, or difficulty breathing
People with asthma or emphysema are at increased risk of developing complications from a rib fracture, such as breathing problems or infections.
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Are There Any Side
Paracetamol is not likely to give you side-effects. Codeine and dihydrocodeine may cause drowsiness or constipation. For constipation, you can take standard laxatives such as senna tablets and/or increase the fruit, fibre and fluid in your diet. It is important to treat constipation promptly because straining worsens rib pain. You can continue taking codeine together with enough laxative to relieve the constipation. If you are drowsy, do not drive and if very drowsy, you should reduce the codeine dose.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers can cause stomach ulcers or stomach bleeding. Many people can take them without problems but some people need to be very careful about taking anti-inflammatory painkillers.
- DO NOT take anti-inflammatory painkillers if you are taking anti-clotting medicines such as warfarin, heparin or similar medication.
Discuss with your doctor or nurse before taking anti-inflammatory painkillers if:
- You are aged over 60 years.
- You have a history of stomach ulcer or stomach bleeding.
- You have a history of heart disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease.
- You have asthma, high blood pressure, kidney disease or may be pregnant.
- You are already taking aspirin or clopidogrel.
- You are taking these painkillers for long periods – say, for over two weeks continuously.
Your doctor may suggest a different painkiller or a medicine to protect the stomach . Be aware of the symptoms of stomach ulcer or bleeding, which are:
More About Your Injury
A rib fracture can be very painful because your ribs move when you breathe, cough, and move your upper body.
The ribs in the middle of the chest are the ones that break most often.
Rib fractures often occur with other chest and organ injuries. So, your health care providers will also check to see if you have any other injuries.
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Finding Out Whats Wrong
A doctor should be able to tell if your pain is most likely due to bruised or broken ribs based on the details you give them and by examining your chest.
They may ask you to take some deep breaths and cough to check for signs of pain. They may also press on areas of your chest to check for tenderness or swelling.
If you have complications due to a rib injury the doctor may run some imaging tests, including:
- a chest – this may pick up rib fractures and complications of a rib fracture
- a – this can show rib fractures more clearly than a chest X-ray as the scanner takes X-rays from a variety of angles
- pneumonia – when the lungs get inflamed
- a collapsed lung – when an injury to the chest wall causes air to become trapped between the lungs and chest wall, causing the lungs to collapse partially or completely
- haemothorax – this is similar to pneumothorax, but blood becomes trapped around the lung
If youre concerned about rib pain, always speak to a doctor.
What Are The Symptoms
Common symptoms of upper and middle back pain are muscle tightness or stiffness or a dull, burning, or sharp pain. More serious symptoms that need to be treated right away include weakness in your arms or legs, loss of bowel or bladder control, and numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, chest, or belly.
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Are Your Ribs Important To Your Spine
Lots of patients here at OSR often mistake pain in their ribs for spine pain. This is because lots of people forget how many ribs we have, and where they are. The human body has 24 ribs, there are twelve on each side and they wrap from front to back. If someone is suffering a rib injury on the back side of their ribs, they often blame the pain on a spine issue.
This may seem obvious, but your ribs are very important for two reasons. One: they pretty much stabilize your entire body, without the support from your ribs, your thoracic spine would have a much more difficult job. Two: they protect your heart, lungs, and other organs. Just like your spine and other joints in your body, your ribs can become subluxated and misaligned. When your ribs are injured or misaligned, your thoracic spine is doing twice the work in trying to keep stability in your back.
We offer chiropractic adjustments to people every day that have misalignments in their spine and ribs. Adjustments can help restore proper function in your ribs and increase your range of motion while decreasing pain you are having in your thoracic back stemming from the ribs.