Thoracic Spine Pain

Thoracic Spine Pain

 It seems to be at its most common in children and teenagers, especially girls. Factors cited as causing thoracic back pain included backpack use, the height of school chairs, and difficulties with homework.
Mental health problems like ADHD and Autism seemed to be an associated factor. It also appeared to be common in the transition period between the early teens and late adolescence. Adults with thoracic back pain often have aches and pains elsewhere as well as difficulties going about their daily tasks.

Is it something to worry about?

 Most people with thoracic spine pain get better without treatment in a couple of weeks.
However, persistent thoracic back pain is more likely to be due to a serious cause than pain in other areas of the spine. There is a whole list of things to look out for that might indicate there's a problem. Most probably following an injury.

Thoracic back pain symptoms

Persistent Thoracic spine pain is common, short-lived and of little consequence. However, it is also more likely than neck pain or low back pain to have a serious cause.

Thoracic back pain red flags

If you have thoracic spine pain, these are the alarm features to look out for:

  • Recent serious injury, such as a car accident or a fall from a height.
  • Minor injury or even just heavy lifting in people with 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis).
  • Age under 20 or over 50 years when the pain first starts.
  • A history of cancer, drug misuse, HIV infection, a condition that suppresses your immune system (immunosuppression) and use of steroids for a long time (about six months or more) e.g.  for treatment of Asthma or Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Feeling generally poorly - for example, a high temperature (fever), chills and unexplained weight loss.
  • A recent infection by a germ (bacterial infection).
  • Pain that is there all the time, severe and getting worse.
  • Pain that wasn't caused by a sprain or strain (non-mechanical).
  • Pain that doesn't get better after 2-4 weeks of treatment.
  • Pain that is accompanied by severe stiffness in the morning possibly arthritis.
  • Changes to the shape of the spine, including the appearance of lumps or bumps.
  • Pins and needles, numbness or weakness of the legs that is severe or gets worse over time.
  • Difficulty to control the bowel or the urine (can indicate pressure on the spinal cord).

What are the causes of thoracic back pain?

The most common cause of thoracic back pain is inflammation of the muscles or soft tissues of the thoracic spine. This inflammation can occur for a number of reasons:

  • A sudden sprain or strain (as in car accidents or sports injuries).
  • Sitting or standing in a slouched position for a long time.
  • Using a backpack.
  • Sitting for a long time at a computer.
  • Lack of muscular strength (couch potatoes beware!).
  • Repeating a movement persistently that involves the thoracic part of the spine (as in sport or work): also called overuse injury.

Less common causes include:

  • Narrowing of part of the spine (thoracic spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal ) - usually due to wear and tear.Slipped discs - these are common but rarely cause pain.Fractures of the vertebrae (the bony components that make up the spine).Bone thinning.
  • Spinal infection.
  • Spine joints Arthritis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis - inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae.
  • Scheuermann's disease - an inflammation of the joints of the spine which results in spinal curvature.
  • Spine tumors.
  • Shingles.

Other causes of pain in this area can include problems affecting the lungs, or the upper part of the gut (the oesophagus), the stomach, the gallbladder and the pancreas.


Things to consider for assessment of thoracic pain:

However, because persistent thoracic back pain is more likely to be serious if it occurs in the thoracic area rather than in your neck or lower back, your doctor is likely to suggest tests if the pain persists, is severe, or is accompanied by any of the 'red flag' features mentioned in the Symptoms section.
The tests will depend on the conditions that the doctor wants to rule out. It's likely to include blood tests and imaging like MRI that can be done in our facility at affordable cost. An ordinary plain X-ray doesn't give much information unless you have an unusual appearance (scoliosis or kyphosis) of the spine or a fracture.

Thoracic spine (mid-back) pain treatment

  • You may not need any treatment as many cases settle down without it.
  • If you have an underlying cause, this will need to be treated.
  • If the pain is coming from a joint in the spine (a facet joint) this may be helped by an injection performed under X-ray vision (fluoroscopy) that is performed frequently by our physicians.
  • Surgery is used only as the last resort.
  • The prognosis depends on the underlying cause, your age and your general fitness.

Many cases settle down in a few weeks, but it should be remembered that pain in the thoracic spine pain might have a serious cause.

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  please call us now at 281.292.PAIN (7246)