The thoracic spine, also known as the upper or middle back, is designed for stability to anchor the rib cage and protect the organs in the chest. It is highly resistant to injury and pain. However, when thoracic back pain does present, it is usually from long-term posture problems or an injury. Thoracic back pain is less common than lower back and neck pain, but it does affect up to 20% of the population, particularly women. Treatment options include chiropractic for quick and long-term pain relief.
Thoracic Back Pain and Soreness
The thoracic area is vital for various functions related to:
- Breathing mechanics
- Optimal arm function
- Organ protection
- Trunk support
- Nervous tissue health
Common reasons for experiencing thoracic back pain include:
- A direct hit or high-impact injury from a fall.
- Sports injury.
- Automobile accident.
- Unhealthy postures that put the spine in chronic misalignment, causing strain.
- Repetitive overuse injury from bending, reaching, lifting, twisting.
- Poor core or shoulder mechanics, causing muscle imbalance.
- Muscular irritation, the large upper back muscles are prone to developing strains or tightness that can be painful and difficult to alleviate.
- De-conditioning or lack of strength.
- Joint dysfunction can come from a sudden injury or natural degeneration from aging. Examples include facet joint cartilage tear or joint capsule tear.
Upper back pain usually feels like a sharp, burning pain localized to one spot or a general achiness that can flare up and spread out to the shoulder, neck, and arms.
Types of Upper Back Pain
- Myofascial pain
- Spine degeneration
- Joint dysfunction
- Nerve dysfunction
- General spinal misalignments
Depending on what specific tissues are affected, pain can occur with breathing or arm use. It is recommended to have a healthcare professional perform an examination and get an accurate diagnosis. A chiropractor understands the delicate balance and functions that the thoracic spine provides and can develop a proper treatment plan.
Treatment options will depend on the symptoms, underlying dysfunctions, and individual preferences. Recommendations for treatment often include:
- Spine adjustments to improve alignment and nerve integrity.
- Posture training to maintain spinal alignment.
- Therapeutic massage.
- Exercise training to restore muscular balance.
- Non-invasive pain-relieving techniques.
- Health coaching.
Plant-Based Diets for Weight Loss
Individuals who follow vegan, vegetarian, and semivegetarian diets have reported and shown they are less likely to be overweight or obese. This can indicate that reducing intake of meat and animal products is beneficial for weight loss. Studies have found that individuals who follow a vegan diet may lose more weight than individuals on a more conventional weight loss diet, even with similar calories consumed, and often have significant improvements in blood sugar and inflammation markers.
Plant-Based Protein and Muscle Gain
Some plant-based proteins are just as effective as animal protein at promoting muscle gain. A study found that supplementing rice protein following resistance training had similar benefits to whey protein supplementation. Both groups had:
- Decreased fat mass
- Increased lean body mass
- Skeletal muscle hypertrophy
- Improved power and strength
Briggs AM, Smith AJ, Straker LM, Bragge P. Thoracic spine pain in the general population: prevalence, incidence and associated factors in children, adolescents and adults. A systematic review. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009;10:77.
Cichoń, Dorota et al. “Efficacy of Physiotherapy in Reducing Back Pain and Improve Joint Mobility in Older Women.” Ortopedia, traumatologia, rehabilitacja vol. 21,1 (2019): 45-55. doi:10.5604/01.3001.0013.1115
Fouquet N, Bodin J, Descatha A, et al. Prevalence of thoracic spine pain in a surveillance network. Occup Med (Lond). 2015;65(2):122-5.
Jäger, Ralf et al. “Comparison of rice and whey protein isolate digestion rate and amino acid absorption.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 10,Suppl 1 P12. 6 Dec. 2013, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-S1-P12
Joy, Jordan M et al. “The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance.” Nutrition journal vol. 12 86. 20 Jun. 2013, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-86
Medawar, Evelyn et al. “The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review.” Translational psychiatry vol. 9,1 226. 12 Sep. 2019, doi:10.1038/s41398-019-0552-0
Newby, PK et al. “Risk of overweight and obesity among semivegetarian, lactovegetarian, and vegan women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 81,6 (2005): 1267-74. doi:10.1093/ajcn/81.6.1267
Pope, Malcolm H et al. “Spine ergonomics.” Annual review of biomedical engineering vol. 4 (2002): 49-68. doi:10.1146/annurev.bioeng.4.092101.122107
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