Is your pain at the lower back? This article notes all the causes of lower back pain.
Let us first understand what constitutes our upper and middle back.
The thoracic spine
Have you heard your doctors speak of T1, T2 or T12? These are not some markings, but these are the 12 vertebrae that attach to your spinal column and support your back. There are discs between each of these vertebrae, a sponge-like substance with a tough exterior and soft tissue interior, to absorb any shock as these vertebrae move. There are of course muscles, ligaments, etc. along with these.
All this constitute what is medically referred to as the thoracic spine or the thoracic region. And this thoracic region is what our upper and middle back consists of.
Any pain that you feel in this region is categorized under the upper and middle back pain.
Who is more prone and what causes the pain?
While no specific age group is the only victims of upper and middle back pain, it is more found in people in the 30-40 year category. Following factors can lead to pain in your upper and middle back.
- Your age
- Lack of exercise, which leads to poor muscle tone, especially in the abdomen, shoulder and back regions.
- You are carrying more weight on the back.
- Cough, especially in those who smoke.
- Poor diet and poor clothing like an unsupported bra or worn out shoes.
- Poor posture, where you slouch while sitting or slump your shoulders when working, poor seating and sleeping conditions.
- Stress and depression.
- Arthritis, cancer and other medical conditions.
Let us now take a look into the different causes for upper and middle back pain in detail.
- Growing old:
Ageing is the major cause of back pain, upper, middle or lower. This is because as we grow old, the fluid level between the joints that avoid the friction of the bones starts thinning out. The bones also get weakened, and the muscle mass goes down considerably too. This causes pain in many regions of our body, including the upper and middle back.
This condition is referred to as “Osteoarthritis” by doctors.
Also as you grow old, the cartilage can wear off which means your bones will start rubbing together. This further adds pressure to the nerve roots causing numbness and pain in your back.
- Improper muscle use and poor posture:
When you exercise, especially when you undertake weight training, you are conditioning your muscles in that area. And when you do not use the muscles properly as they should be used, then you are reducing muscle strength and are more prone to diseases.
When we say improper muscle use, it is mostly a result of poor posture. We often see people slouching in their chairs as they work. This is a wrong posture and slouching can easily put pressure on the neck, ligaments, spine and the discs causing pain and other issues.
Even improper standing where you balance on one leg for too long or improper sleeping posture where your back is not well-supported can result in upper and middle back pain. When you are lifting an object, you have to make sure that you use the right mechanics in your body and do not twist the spine unnecessarily.
- Overuse or strained muscles
When you are lifting heavy articles or when you carry heavy backpacks, you are adding more strain to your muscles. Even repetitive actions that use our shoulders and back continually can result in muscle sprains and strains. It starts with tightness in the muscles, irritation and then slowly develops into chronic pain in the upper and middle back.
- Ruptured or herniated discs
As mentioned earlier the discs serve as a cushion between the vertebrae and when this cushion bulges out of its shell and adds pressure to the spinal bone, it results in back pain. While most of the times, it happens in the lower back, there are chances of the discs in the upper and middle back also getting ruptured.
When your disc is ruptured or herniated, you will have pain in that respective region which will shoot up with the smallest of the pressure. And if the disc happens to compress the nearby nerve, it is referred to as the pinched nerve, and it will cause severe pain in your back region.
If the pain is severe that can be kidney pain too. Do you know the difference between kidney pain and back pain?
This is a very rare scenario where infection in your spine results in the upper or middle back pain. When pus and germs get in between the spinal bones and cord, it can lead to swelling adding on pressure causing pain to the back.
If you have had an accident at your workplace or a slip and fall accident or any injury suffered due to a traumatic incident can result in back pain. Sometimes the pain is immediate, and it is easy for the doctors to diagnose it as well. However, in certain cases, the pain occurs later. It could be due to a fracture in the vertebral column further leading to chronic pain. If not attended immediately it can lead to severe consequences like paralysis or permanent nerve damage.
Apart from the above, deformity in the spinal structure (could be by birth or an injury), scoliosis, cancer, etc. can also cause pain in your upper and middle back.
Our lifestyle is the major cause of the back pain, whether it is lower, middle or upper. Repetitive and overuse of muscles, unfit body, and unbalanced diet contribute greatly towards back pain. Making simple lifestyle changes can help us with relief. And if you have chronic pain in the upper and middle back (chronic refers to consistent pain for 3 months or more), then you should visit a doctor for treatment.