What Is Upper And Middle Back Pain
Upper and middle back pain can occur anywhere from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage.
Your ribs attach to a long, flat bone in the centre of the chest called 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, such as your arms, legs, chest, and belly.
The upper and middle back has:
- 12 vertebrae. These bones attach to your rib cage. They make up the longest part of your back.
- Discs that separate each vertebra and absorb shock as you move.
- Muscles and ligaments that hold the spine together.
See a picture of the spine.
Upper and middle back pain is not as common as low back pain or neck pain, because the bones in this area of the back don’t flex or move as much as the bones in your lower back or neck. Instead, they work with the ribs to keep the back stable and help protect vital organs, such as the heart and lungs.
Common Causes Of Chronic Lower Back Pain
“Chronic lower back pain is less likely to be caused by injury to your muscles and ligaments and more likely to be due to issues with the lumbar disks, nerves, joints or vertebrae,” says Dr. Palmer. “There are several potential causes of chronic pain in the lower back.”
In general, osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease are the underlying cause of many types of chronic lower back pain. However, lower back pain can also be caused by accident-related trauma and acute stress.
What Is A Lumbar Spine Ct Scan
A CT scan, commonly referred to as a CAT scan, is a type of X-ray that produces cross-sectional images of a specific part of the body.
In the case of a lumbar spine CT scan, your doctor can see a cross-section of your lower back. The scanning machine circles the body and sends images to a computer monitor, where they are reviewed by a technologist.
The lumbar portion of the spine is a common area where back problems occur. The lumbar spine is the lowest portion of your spine. Its made up of five vertebral bones.
Below the lumbar spine is the sacrum and below the sacrum is the coccyx . Large blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage are also part of the lumbar spine.
A CT scan is one of many imaging tests your doctor may use to investigate problems with your spine. This includes pain due to injuries, disease, or infection.
Other reasons your doctor might order a lumbar CT scan include:
- back pain accompanied by fever
- birth defects affecting the spine
- a herniated disk
- spinal surgery preparation
- weakness, numbness, or other problems with your legs
A CT scan is not the same as an MRI. An MRI of the lumbar spine shows the bones, disks, and spinal cord. MRIs can also show the spaces between the vertebral bones that nerves pass through.
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How Are Back And Neck Pain Treated
In many cases, acute back or neck pain may simply improve with some rest. Over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also help with the discomfort. Try to move gently during this period, so that you won’t become stiff and lose mobility.
If you have chronic pain of your back and neck, try several remedies before considering surgery. These include:
- Hot or cold packs as advised by your healthcare provider
- Certain exercises to strengthen back and belly muscles and ease pain, such as stretching and flexing. Your healthcare provider can show you these exercises. Physical therapy can also help you find the correct exercises.
- Aerobic exercise may help with your overall fitness and strength.
- Certain anti-inflammatory medicines or muscle relaxants may be used, as advised by your provider.
- Sometimes your provider may suggest a brace or corset for extra support.
- Shots for pain relief in the area
- Nerve block. This eases pain signals from the affected nerve.
- Osteopathic manipulation
What Are The Possible Causes Of Upper Back Pain
Upper back pain may be caused by many different medical conditions and injuries. Conditions that may cause upper back pain include:
- Strains and sprains: Back strains and sprains are the most common cause of upper back pain. You can injure muscles, tendons or ligaments by lifting something too heavy or not lifting safely.
- Poor posture: Many people with upper back pain find it hard to stand up straight. You may stand crooked or bent, with your torso off to the side rather than aligned with your spine.
- Disk problems: Disks can slip or bulge from their position in the spine and press on a nerve. They can also tear .
- Fractures: The bones in the spine can break during an accident, like a car crash or a fall.
- Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that causes upper back pain.
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What Is Upper Back Pain
Upper back pain occurs anywhere from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage. Your upper and middle back is called the thoracic spine. Your thoracic spine has 12 small bones called vertebrae. Your vertebrae form your backbone.
Each of the vertebrae on your thoracic spine is connected to a pair of ribs. Your ribs wrap around your body to a long, flat bone down the center of your chest called the sternum. This forms your rib cage.
Your upper back also has disks that separate each vertebrae. These disks absorb shock as you move. There are also many muscles and ligaments in your upper back that hold your spine together. Upper back pain may be caused by many different medical issues or injuries to the bones, disks, muscles and ligaments in your upper back.
Upper back pain is not as common as neck pain or low back pain. This is because the bones in the upper area of your back don’t move or flex as much as the bones in your neck and lower back. The bones in your upper back work with the ribs to keep the back stable. They work together to help protect vital organs in your body including your heart and lungs.
How Can You Care For Yourself At Home
There are several things you can do at home to help reduce your pain. For example:
- Rest. If your back hurts a lot, take a break. But try not to let too much time pass before you get moving again. Instead, return to your activities slowly.
- Use over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . These can reduce pain and swelling. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Use over-the-counter muscle relaxants, such as methocarbamol . These can relax muscles and may reduce pain, but they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
- Use a heating pad or ice pack. Heat can reduce pain and stiffness. Ice can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Exercise. Exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back, shoulders, and stomach can help improve your posture, decrease your chance of injury, and reduce pain.
- Practice good posture. Be sure to stand or sit tall. Don’t slump or slouch.
- Learn ways to reduce stress. You might try deep breathing and relaxation exercises or meditation.
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Treatment For Mild To Moderate Pain
In most cases, people with mild to moderate upper and middle back pain can manage their symptoms with:
- Over-the-counter pain medicines. These include acetaminophen and NSAIDs , to reduce pain.
- Topical pain medicines. These are medicines that you put on your skin.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . This is a cream that you can rub over the sore area and may help relieve pain.
- Capsaicin cream. This may help relieve pain.footnote 1 It’s a substance found in cayenne peppers. Capsaicin cream is applied directly to the skin over the painful area.
Hope For Those Suffering From Upper Middle Back Pain
If you are among the millions who suffer from back pain, then you will be happy to know that upper cervical chiropractic care can help more than just those with scoliosis. This specialty in the chiropractic field focuses on the adjustment of the C1 and C2, the top two bones in the spine that are located at the base of the skull. Misalignments in this area can have far-reaching effects on the body and can particularly affect the rest of the spine since the bones and soft tissue have a built-in tendency to shift to keep the head level.
Upper cervical chiropractors take precise measurements of the C1 and C2 using modern diagnostic imaging techniques. This allows us to provide gentle adjustments that are tailored to each patients needs. If you have experienced general chiropractic, but not upper cervical, you are in for a surprise. Our adjustments are low-force and require little to no pressure. Some practitioners even use an adjusting instrument instead of their hands.
The results, however, speak for themselves. And unlike painkillers which come along with side effects and provide little long-term benefit, upper cervical chiropractic care is safe and effective on a long-term basis because it gets to the root of many back problems. To learn more, contact a practitioner in your local area to schedule a no-obligation consultation.
to schedule a consultation today.
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Can I Prevent Neck And Back Pain
The following may help to prevent back and neck pain:
- Practice correct lifting techniques. Don’t lift heavy items. When you do lift something, bend your legs, keep your back straight, and then slowly lift your body and the object.
- Wear a seat belt in motor vehicles in case of a collision.
- Use telephones, computers, and other equipment correctly.
- Maintain correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping.
- Exercise regularly. Learn back-strengthening exercises to keep your back and belly muscles strong. Warm up with stretching exercises before doing exercises.
- Do exercises that improve your balance.
- Don’t smoke.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Reduce emotional stress that may cause muscle tension.
- Get enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet.
Herniated Disk In The Upper Back
A herniated, ruptured, or “slipped” disc means that a vertebral disc â one of the soft pads of tissue that sit between each of the vertebral bones â has becomes squeezed out of shape. Its cushioning material has been forced against, and possibly through, the ring of fibrous tissue that normally contains it. This causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.
The normal aging process causes the discs lose moisture and become thinner, making them more vulnerable to “slipping.”
Most susceptible are men from ages 30 to 50. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and improper lifting are also risk factors.
Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, leg, and foot.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, and MRI scan.
Treatment begins with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and sometimes epidural steroid injections into the back to ease pain and inflammation.
Surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc â the part that was squeezed out of place â can also be helpful.
Top Symptoms: upper back pain, neck pain, arm weakness, back pain that gets worse when sitting, upper spine pain
Symptoms that always occur with herniated disk in the upper back: upper back pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Middle Back Pain From Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis or arthritis of the spine is a degenerative disease that breaks down bone near weight-bearing joints and disc cartilage over time. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain during or after movement, joint stiffness, loss of flexibility, swelling, and bone spurs. Spine specialists refer to osteoarthritis as a wear and tear disease because it causes deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and attaches muscle to bone. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Other risk factors that patients should look out for include age, obesity, joint injuries, genetics, bone deformities, and certain metabolic diseases.
Patients can receive an accurate osteoarthritis diagnosis from a board-certified spine surgeon. Doctors will conduct a physical examination, checking for joint tenderness, swelling, redness, and flexibility. Spine experts can obtain a clearer picture of a patients condition through diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging .
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is irreversible, but treatments can reduce middle back pain and help patients move without experiencing crippling pain. Patients can manage their middle back pain from osteoarthritis with over-the-counter medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and surgical intervention when necessary.
How To Prepare For A Lumbar Spine Ct Scan
A lumbar spine CT scan is a noninvasive test.
You may want to wear loose, comfortable clothing because youll be required to lie down on a table. Youll also be instructed to remove any jewelry and other metallic items from your body. Tell your doctor if you have any metal implants from prior procedures.
Before going into your CT scan, tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:
- allergy to oral contrast
- diabetes, as fasting may lower your blood sugar levels
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How To Treat Middle Back Pain
If you have a problem with vertebrae in your spine you might need to rest for a short time , and then gradually become more active.
It may help to apply heat to the area. Voltarol non-medicated Heat Patch is designed to target back and muscle pain, providing up to 8 hours of localised pain-relieving heat. The thin, self-adhesive, odourless patch provides effective pain relief and muscle relaxation in a non-medicated, tablet-free format.
Pain-relieving medicines can help you get up and moving. To decide which medicine is best for you, it may help to learn a bit about pain, and what happens in your body in the article: Understanding the difference between acute and chronic pain.
Voltarol Back & Muscle Pain Relief 1.16% Gel is a topical medicine that relieves pain, reduces inflammation and helps speed up recovery with its triple effect action.¹ ¹¹ It brings targeted, local relief for pain and swelling .¹² ¹³ The active ingredient in Voltarol Back & Muscle Pain Relief 1.16% Gel is a NSAID called diclofenac. Diclofenac works to inhibit prostaglandins synthesis .¹ By reducing their amounts, diclofenac helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.¹
Ask a pharmacist or your GP if you would like advice about what would be the best treatment for you.
Once you feel more comfortable, its a good idea to see a physiotherapist to do an exercise programme to strengthen the muscles in your back and improve your posture. ¹
How Tria Neck And Back Strengthening Program Helps You Heal Your Back Pain
What many people dont realize about chronic back pain is that it can often be solved without surgery. Yes, sometimes surgery is the suggestion but only after non-surgical options have stopped working.
At TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program our spine strengthening program focuses on active physical therapy which focuses on movement-based activities. This is a proven method for healing chronic back pain just ask any of the 200,000-plus patients weve worked with over the past 30 years.
Through this program, youll do an intake with a doctor or physical therapist who specializes in spine care and chronic pain. Theyll work with you to determine the best pain management treatment plan. Then youll work one-on-one with a physical therapist.
Most programs are six to 12 weeks long, and your therapy happens at one of our facilities that features state-of-the-art medical exercise equipment. As part of your care, youll learn about what chronic pain is and how the brain processes it.
Youll also focus on body mechanics such as proper lifting, standing and sleeping all the things that can contribute to back pain but you probably dont think about. And as you progress, youll learn how to continually improve and maintain your back strength on you own so you can keep back pain at bay long-term.
Want to learn more about TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program? Watch this short video.
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When Should I Call My Health Care Provider
See your health care provider if you have:
Loss of bladder or bowel control, with weakness in both legs. These symptoms require immediate attention
Severe back or neck pain that does not decrease with medication and rest
Pain after an injury or a fall
Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your legs or arms
Back and neck problems range from minor aches to severe, disabling pain
Often, the reasons for your pain cannot be identified.
See a health care provider if you have numbness or tingling, severe pain that does not improve with medication and rest, difficulty urinating, weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs, fever, unintentional weight loss, or pain after a fall.
Often, back and neck pain will improve over time. Consult with your health care provider if your pain is not decreasing.
Use prevention strategies to keep yourself healthy and injury-free.
For severe, disabling, or chronic back pain, consider an individualized rehabilitation program.