Middle Back Pain: Is It Your Posture?
It’s easy to slip into less-than-ideal posture throughout the day. You might hunch over your desk while you work, sink into the sofa to watch a movie or sleep in a bit of a strange position.
Over time, that poor posture can cause pain in your middle back. Here’s what’s going on.
What is middle back pain?
Middle back pain refers to pain in your thoracic spine.
Your spine stretches from your neck to your hips and we tend to divide it into 3 sections. There’s your lumbar spine (lower back), thoracic spine (middle back) and cervical spine (neck).
Your thoracic spine is the longest section and is built primarily for stability. It contains 12 vertebrae (hollow, bony building blocks) that support your neck and spinal joints, anchor your rib cage and connect your nerves and various soft tissues.
What causes middle back pain?
Middle back pain can occur anywhere in your thoracic spine in your bones, discs, nerves or soft tissues.
It may be caused by an underlying condition such as:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Congenital connective tissue or skeletal disorders
- A vertebral fracture
- A deep infection
- A spinal tumour
When should you worry about middle back pain?
We consider middle back pain more serious if:
- It happens after a trauma like a car crash or a fall from up high
- You have osteoporosis
- It happens for the first time when you’re under 20 or over 50
- Have a medical history of cancer, drug use, HIV, prolonged steroid use or a suppressed immune system
- Have other symptoms that are affecting your whole body like fever or unexplained weight loss
- Have had a recent bacterial infection
- Have pain that is constant, severe and getting worse
- Find it very hard to move in the mornings
- Are starting to lose sensation in your lower limbs.
How to relieve middle back pain?
Because lower back pain can be caused by underlying conditions, any treatment should start with a full assessment to identify or exclude those conditions.
After that, the treatment for lower back pain depends on its underlying cause. If you’ve now been diagnosed with an underlying medical condition, you will need treatment for that, often alongside physiotherapy to improve your mobility and reduce your pain.
If you don’t have an underlying condition then treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and strengthening your body.
That may include:
- Improving your posture
- Physiotherapy exercises
- Medication or steroid injections.
Your posture and middle back pain
Often, though, middle back pain is linked to your posture.
Posture is about how you sit or stand. Good posture means your body is positioned correctly with your weight balanced evenly so that your skeleton, muscles and ligaments aren’t overstretched or strained.
If you’re standing, try to have your back straight, your tummy tucked in and your head level.
When you are sitting, ensure your back is against the back of the chair and your knees are at a right angle with your feet on the floor.
Poor posture may increase the pressure on your spine. If you’re often slouching, the muscles and ligaments in your middle back have to work harder to support your spine. That overwork can lead to aches and pains in your middle back.
Middle back pain exercises and posture
You can improve your posture by:
- Standing upright rather than slouching
- Keeping your shoulders back
- Avoiding prolonged sitting – stand up and walk around regularly
- Using an ergonomic desk set up
- Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees.
Your physiotherapist may recommend middle back exercises such as:
- The cat-cow pose: Get on all fours, inhale, then dip your belly downwards and lift your face up. Then arch your back and lower your face. Repeat.
- Passive backbend: Lie on your back with a rolled-up towel under your shoulder blades. Lie still and breathe deeply for 3 minutes.
- Seated twist: Sit up tall, place your right hand behind you and bring your left hand to your right knee while gazing over your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
- Bridge pose: Lie on your back, press your shoulders into the floor then lift your hips up.
- Cobra pose: Lie on your tummy, place your hands under your shoulders then lift your back up.
How can The Brisbane Spine Clinic help?
We have a special interest in treating many different kinds of spine pain. If you’re experiencing pain in your middle back, then please make an appointment for a comprehensive assessment and treatment plan that aims to identify the cause of your pain and relieve your symptoms.
Make an appointment today.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.