Thoracic back pain is discomfort that occurs in the thoracic back. The thoracic spine lies at the back of the chest (the thorax), mostly in between the shoulder blades. It prolongs from the bottom of the neck to the beginning of the lumbar spine. It's placed nearly the waist level.
Is Thoracic Back Pain Common?
Researchers found out that between 4 and 72 individuals out of 100 are suffering from thoracic back pain. Political pollsters that had never before heard such accurate forecasting right away hired these researchers to forecast the result of the next election.
The fact is that unless the same question is asked, different sources will undoubtedly give different answers. It's known that teenage girls are especially prone to thoracic back pain. The dreaded backpack is responsible. That why leaving most of your books in the school locker is an excellent idea. Drag a hundredweight of books to and from school on kid's backs every day can cause severe back problems.
Who Gets Thoracic Back Pain?
As was mentioned before, it seems thoracic back pain is most common in children and teenagers, especially girls. Factors that cause thoracic back pain include:
- backpack use;
- the height of school chairs;
- troubles with homework (prolonged sitting).
Mental health problems appeared to be an associated aspect. It likewise appeared to be usual in the transition period between the early teens and late adolescence. Adults with thoracic pain in the back often have aches and pains in other areas in addition to troubles with performing daily tasks.
Is it Something Severe?
The short answer, usually it's not. The majority of people with thoracic back pain get better without treatment in a couple of weeks.
However, thoracic back pain is more probable to be caused by something severe. This underlying problem can cause discomfort in other spine areas. There is a whole checklist of things to keep an eye on that may indicate there's a problem. Some warnings include:
- discomfort beginning shortly after a crash;
- having a condition that triggers a weak immune system;
- overall unwell feeling;
- having pain that's worsening after a couple of weeks' treatment.
Thoracic Back Pain Symptoms
Thoracic back pain is joint, brief, and does not leave much consequence. However, it is likewise more likely than neck pain or low pain in the back to have a severe cause.
Red Flags. If you have thoracic back discomfort, these are the alarms to watch out for:
- Recent severe injury, such as a car crash or a fall from an elevation.
- Small injury and even simply heavy lifting in individuals with 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis).
- Age between 20 and 50 years when the discomfort initially begins.
- A history of cancer, medication and drug misuse, HIV infection. Also, a condition that subdues your immune system (immunosuppression) and the use of steroids for a long time (regarding six months or more).
- Overall unwell feeling. For example, a high temperature (fever), chills, and sudden and unexplained weight loss.
- A recent germ (bacterial) infection.
- Constant severe and also worsening pain.
- Pain that had not been triggered by a strain or sprain (non-mechanical).
- Pain that doesn't get better after 2-4 weeks of treatment.
- Pain accompanied by severe stiffness in the early morning.
- Changes to the spine shape, including the appearance of lumps or bumps.
- Numbness or weakness in the legs that is serious or worsens with time.
- Passing wee or poo unexpectedly (can indicate stress on the spinal cord).
Causes of Thoracic Back Pain
One of the most typical causes of thoracic back pain is the inflammation of the muscles or soft tissue of the thoracic back. Some causes of this inflammation include:
- An abrupt strain or sprain (as in automobile crashes or sports injuries).
- Sitting or standing in a slouched pose for a prolonged period;
- Wearing a backpack;
- Sitting for a very long time at a computer;
- Absence of muscular strength (lazy-bones be cautious!);
- A repetitive movement that entails the thoracic part of the spinal column (sport or job). It's also called overuse injury.
Less typical causes include:
- Narrowing of part of the back (thoracic stenosis) - generally because of damage;
- Slipped discs - these are common however hardly ever trigger discomfort;
- Fractures of the vertebrae (the bony elements that comprise the spinal column);
- Spinal infection;
- Shingles (especially in people over 60);
- Spine osteoarthritis;
- Ankylosing spondylitis - inflammation of the joints in between the vertebrae;
- Scheuermann's illness - a swelling of the spine joints which leads to spinal curvature;
- Back tumors.
It shouldn't be assumed that all discomfort in the thoracic back is coming from the spinal column itself. Other causes of pain in the thoracic area can include problems affecting the lung, the uppermost part of the digestive tract (the esophagus), the tummy, the gallbladder, and the pancreatic.
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Will I Need any Tests?
If it's temporary mild discomfort with an apparent cause (for instance, it began after you participated in some competition), your physician will most likely recommend some treatment before performing any tests.
Nevertheless, back pain is most likely to be severe if it occurs in the thoracic area rather than in your neck or lower back. So your physician is most likely to suggest tests if the discomfort persists, is severe, or is accompanied by any of the 'red flags' pointed out in the symptoms section before.
The tests will depend on the conditions that the medical professional intends to rule out. They are most likely to include blood tests such as a full blood count and inflammatory markers, and maybe an MRI check. An ordinary X-ray does not provide many details unless you have an unusual appearance of the spine or a fracture is suspected.
Treatment for Thoracic Back Pain
You might not require any treatment, as many instances settle without it. If you have an underlying reason, this will require treatment of its own. The pain can also originate from a joint in the spine (a facet joint). This pain can be relieved by an injection performed under X-ray vision (imaging-guided intra-articular injection).
If the thoracic back pain caused by a slipped disc, the surgery could be performed. This surgery (laminectomy) opens up the covering of the spinal canal. However, it can be very harmful.
Nonetheless, sometimes a much less risky technique can be performed. It includes surgery via the skin (percutaneous thoracic intervertebral disc nucleoplasty).
The outlook (prognosis) relies on the underlying cause, your age, as well as your general health and physical state.
In most cases, the pain will be gone on its own in a couple of weeks. Yet remember that discomfort in the thoracic back is more prone to have a severe cause than pain in the neck or lower back.