Thoracic or Mid-Back Pain

When the thoracic spine is mentioned, it means the upper and middle back. The thoracic spine joins the cervical spine and stretches down five inches past the shoulder blades bottom, where it binds with the lumbar spine. The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae, named T1-T12.

While the thoracic spine is designed for stability and the cervical spine designed for flexibility like turning the head, the lumbar spine is designed for flexibility and power like touching the toes and lifting heavy objects. Stability is crucial, and it has a vital role in keeping the body upright, which also protects vital organs in the chest region of the body.


The Thoracic Spine and Upper Back Pain

The thoracic spine is known as an intricate construction of nerves, connective tissues, bones, joints, muscles, and spinal segments. Though the thoracic spine is stable and has a robust design, pain can also originate from it.


  • Muscular Issues: Upper back pain is typically caused by muscle tension or irritation. It is also called myofascial pain. The cause of the pain can be attributed to poor posture or anyform of irritation of the shoulder and large back muscles.
  • Joint Dysfunction: A pain prompted by joint dysfunction, where the ribs fuse to the spine at different levels of the thoracic spine, can cause pain.
  • Degenerative or Herniated Discs: Though it is less common in the thoracic spine, thoracic or degenerative disc disease can cause pain.
  • Arthritis: Swelling caused by arthritis in the spine can cause pressure to the nerve, limited motion range, and tenderness. This is often because of the wear and tear attributedto the aging process. The facet joints can disappear or become thin, or even produce an overgrowth of bone spurs. Also, enlargement of the joints can occur. The facet joints diseases of the thoracic spine can originate from osteoarthritis.
  • Vertebral Fractures: Osteoporosis causing compression fractures are the major cause of thoracic spine pain in older adults. Even though compression fractures can happen anywhere, they usually take place in the lower vertebrae of the thoracic spine—that is from T9-T12.
  • Hunchback or Kyphosis: About vertebral fractures, kyphosis (hunchback) has many causative factors like a deformity or poor posture such as Scheuermann’s kyphosis or ankylosing spondylitis. Though hunchback is a deformity, it is also a source of pain.
  • Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a health condition in which the thoracic spine atypically curves sideways, and most times, it produces upper back pain

Generally, a painful feeling experienced in the thoracic spine can actually be a symptom of a much more severe underlying problem or disease. Both non-orthopedic and musculoskeletal disorders like cancerous tumors applying pressure on the spine can be a cause of upper back pain. Also, some conditions of the lungs, heart, kidneys, or abnormal organs can be the cause of upper back pain.

At 3R (Regenerative Repair & Relief), our upper to mid back pain doctor highly values the necessity of an interdisciplinary approach. Contact us now to evaluate if you qualify.