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What to Know About Middle Back Pain

  • Middle back pain occurs in the thoracic spine, which is located below the neck and above the bottom of the rib cage. This region contains 12 backbones, known as the T1 to T12 vertebrae. Between them are disks.

    The spinal column protects the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that connects the brain to the rest of the body.

    The bones, muscles, ligaments, and disks in the spine can irritate or injure the nerves in a variety of ways, resulting in back pain.

    Causes of Middle Back Pain

    1. Poor posture

    Middle back pain can result from repeated pressure on the spine. Poor posture can contribute to this pressure in some cases. When you slouch, your back muscles and ligaments have to work extra hard to keep you balanced. Overworking these muscles can result in aches and pains in the middle back.

    2. Obesity

    A meta-analysis of 95 studies on obesity and lower back pain found a positive relationship between the two. Weight gain increases the risk of back pain.

    3. Muscle sprain or strain

    Sprains are caused by ligament tearing or stretching. Strains occur when muscles and tendons tear or stretch. Lifting heavy objects on a regular basis, especially without proper form, can easily cause a person's back to sprain or strain. Sprains and strains can also happen as a result of an awkward, sudden movement.

    4. Fall or other injuries

    The cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine are less likely to be injured than the middle back. This is due to the fact that it is more structured and rigid. However, the middle back can still be injured.

    5. Herniated disk

    When the inner, gel-like core of a disk in your back pushes against the outer ring of cartilage, it puts pressure on the nerve. Slipped or ruptured disks are other terms for herniated disks.

    This nerve pressure can cause pain, tingling, or numbness in the middle back and areas where the affected nerve travels, such as the legs.

    6. Osteoarthritis

    Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint degenerative disease. It happens when the cartilage that covers your joints wears away, causing bones to rub together. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 30 million adults in the United States have OA. It is the leading cause of disability in adults in the United States.

    7. Aging

    Back pain is more likely to occur as a person grows older. Back pain is most common in people aged 30 to 50, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. The aging process naturally wears on the body, including bone thinning, muscle mass loss, and a decrease in the fluid between spinal joints. All of these factors can contribute to back pain.

    8. Fractures

    Vertebrae fractures are frequently caused by trauma, such as a fall, car accident, or sports injury. Fractures are also more likely in people with low bone density, such as OA patients.

    Fractures can cause severe middle back pain that worsens with movement. If you have incontinence, tingling, or numbness, your fracture may be affecting your spinal cord as well. Fractures and bone breaks can be life-threatening injuries. They frequently necessitate immediate medical attention.

    Diagnosis of Middle Back Pain 

    Physical Exam

    Your doctor will examine your spine, head, pelvis, abdomen, arms, and legs during a physical exam. If you have been in an accident, emergency personnel may place a collar around your neck during this exam to help stabilize your spine.


    A neurological exam will look at how the brain and spinal cord work. Your doctor may ask you to wiggle your toes or fingers during this test. This can reveal information about the spinal cord and nerve endings.

    Imaging tests generate images of the inside of your body. They could show fractures, bone degeneration, or other causes of middle back pain.


    Home Remedies

    There are several home remedies for middle back pain that you can try:

    • Ice the area first, then apply heat. This is one of the most common methods for providing quick relief.
    • To reduce swelling and pain, take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).
    • Yoga, for example, can help to stretch and strengthen the back muscles.

    To alleviate back pain, you can also work on improving your posture. Consider the following suggestions:

    • Slouching should be avoided.
    • When standing, keep your shoulders back.
    • If you sit for long periods of time, take standing breaks.
    • If you work at a desk, you can improve your posture by adjusting your chair and computer monitor height, as well as your keyboard and mouse positioning.

    Medical Treatments

    If your back pain persists for more than 72 hours and home remedies are ineffective, consult your doctor. Physical therapy, prescription pain relievers or muscle relaxers, chiropractic care, or steroid injections may be recommended.


    If noninvasive treatments do not relieve your middle back pain, your doctor may suggest surgery. Depending on the cause of your back pain, you may be able to benefit from a variety of procedures. Surgery recovery can take several months. Laminectomy, laminotomy, and diskectomy are all possible surgeries.

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