The spine is made up of multiple sections and each has a name: the cervical region (the vertebrae of the neck), the thoracic region (the vertebrae of the upper back), and the lumbar region (or lower back). The middle back refers to the area above the hips and below the ribs and, although the term thoracic back pain often is used interchangeably with middle back pain, there are notable differences between the two. That’s why if you tell your doctor your back hurts, he may ask you to be more specific, especially with regard to middle back pain vs. thoracic back pain. There is a difference in what each means and how each is treated.
Thoracic Back Pain
The thoracic region of the back is often referred to as the “upper back” and is made up of the twelve vertebrae that are attached to the ribs. Pain in the thoracic region of the spine could be the result of carrying a bulky backpack or lifting something too heavy, or sitting too long in an uncomfortable chair. However, thoracic pain can also be a symptom of a serious underlying condition, for example, organ or back damage from a fall or car accident, an infection that suppresses the immune system, a bacterial infection, or long-term steroid or drug abuse. Thoracic back pain may also be a symptom of cancer.
Since the thoracic area of the spine is connected to the ribs which protect your heart and lungs, damage to the thoracic vertebrae could affect your cardiopulmonary system. Therefore, it is very important not to ignore this kind of back pain and call your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following in conjunction to thoracic back pain:
- Fever and chills
- Severe, constant pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nerve pain, numbness, or tingling in the lower body
- Severe stiffness
- Physical trauma
- Onset of pain before the age of 20 or after the age of 50
Middle Back Pain
Middle back pain occurs in the region above the lumbar area of the spine, but below the rib cage. Symptoms of middle back pain are not always distinct and therefore not the easiest to diagnose. Some common causes of middle back pain include:
- Weight gain
- Lack of physical activity
As with thoracic back pain, any sudden symptoms such as fever, chills, or dizziness may be a sign of something more serious, and immediate medical attention should be sought.
Treating Back Pain
Our spine protects the most important parts of our central nervous system; therefore, back pain should be monitored and taken seriously to avoid permanent nerve or spinal damage.
The treatment you are given for your back pain will depend upon the location of the back pain and its underlying cause. Some back pain can be relieved by non-invasive techniques such as professional massage, physical therapy, injections, rest and special exercises. For severe spinal ailments, there are surgical options available, some of which are minimally-invasive. For thoracic and middle back pain, common surgeries include discectomy – when a surgeon removes all or part of an injured spinal disc; and vertebral fusion – when a surgeon creates a strong structure from two adjacent vertebrae by joining them together. Sometimes these two procedures complement each other and can be performed together.
If you’re experiencing back pain that is interfering in your everyday life, it may be time to visit a doctor. The experienced physicians at Tarpon Orthopedics can help by diagnosing your condition and helping to identify the best course of action to alleviate your pain. Don’t let back pain control your life. Call (972) 596-1059 for a consultation today in our West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas locations.