Middle Back Pain: Causes and Treatments

by ergonomicadvice

Learn about the common causes of middle back pain and the most effective natural and medical treatments for it.

Middle back pain is defined as any type of pain or discomfort in the area between the upper and lower back. Health professionals refer to the middle back as lower thoracic or thoracic spine. Upper thoracic spine makes up the upper back area while the lumbar spine makes up the lower back.

The mid back area consists of nerves, spinal cord, spinal column, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments, and these structures can become irritated or inflamed in response to different mild to serious conditions. The discomfort may last briefly or may be chronic, lasting more than three months.

Facts about Middle Back Pain



  • According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience back pain at any given time (read more).
  • 8/10 people experience back pain in their lifetimes - National Institute of Health (read more).
  • It is responsible for around 60% of cases of people missing work (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Back Pain Statistics
Back Pain Statistics
American Pain Foundation

Common Causes

  • Scoliosis

    From WebMDThis is an odd shaped spinal cord disorder that causes mild to severe discomfort in the mid spine area. It is sometimes referred to as curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can also cause pain on other parts of the body besides the back. This condition curves the spine from the sides, giving it an S or C shape. There are several different causes of Scoliosis, but muscle imbalance and genetics are the most common causes.

    As simple diagnosis: you may realize that one of your arms seems to be larger than the other due to Scoliosis. Additionally, you may realize that the neckline of your shirt is never straight and that one of your shoulders hurts persistently.

  • Herniated Disc

    Herniation describes an abnormality around the intervertebral disc, and is also known as ruptured, slipped or torn disc. The process occurs when the nucleus pulpous or the inner core of the intervertebral disc bulges out through the outer layer of ligaments surrounding the annulus fibrosis.

    The bulge or break on the spongy discs that cushion the spine put pressure on the nerves coming out of the spine. The pressure can lead to midback pain if it occurs in the thorasic vertabrae. Usually, patients complain of sharp, cutting sensations around the spinal area.

  • Fractured VertabraeFractured Vertebrae

    Fractured vertebrae occurs when one or more of the spinal bones crack or break. The vertebral components may fracture like any other bone in the body. The fractures often occur due to traumatic injuries on the spine, but can also occur due to a combination of low bone density and obesity. The dorsal side of the vertebral structure is one the most common areas that suffer fractures. In addition, fractures can also occur in the transverse or spinous processes and the pedicle, lamina or facet joints. The fracture in the spinous processes lead to sharp discomfort.

  • Spinal Stenosis

    Spinal StenosisSpinal stenosis is a major cause of chronic middle back pain through nerve compression and conditions such as sciatica. Spinal stenosis discomfort around the neck can be very dangerous particularly through spinal cord compression. The ache can eventually lead to general body weaknesses or paralysis. The nerves of the spine innervate areas away from the spine and any inflammation, compression or irritation of the nerves may result in acute or permanent radiculopathy. Sometimes, the onset of mid-back sensations may be followed immediately by bladder or bowel control problems.

  • Muscle Sprain

    muscle sprainMuscle sprain is one of the typical diagnosis for muscular discomfort in the mid spine regino. Diagnosis of the sprain is usually used in describing a condition in which a ligament or muscular is overstretched and torn to some degree. A serious detachment or tear in a muscular is usually known as strain. The diagnosis in most cases, is made based on clinical observations without the benefit of imaging study.


What's Your Experience With Back Pain?



Almost everything you do requires that you use your back, and spine problems are usually the result of several activities or even accidents. Most injuries occur over a long period of time as a result of various factors- how you sleep, sit, what you eat or even how you deal with stress at home or work. Here are some helpful tips that can help you prevent injury.

  • Ergonomics

    There are several basic ergonomic guidelines that are useful for employees to avoid pain or injury. It is important that you develop job habits based on forces present in a specific work environment, biomechanics and time spent in your particular job. 

    Ensure that you use your body posture as a tool that can be altered in order to meet the demands of the job without stressing the muscles, bones ligaments and joints. Additionally, use correct body mechanisms, maintain correct fitness and flexibility as well as develop a strength reserve.

  • Practice correct posture

    Prolonged static posture is a big enemy, it is therefore important that you regularly shift your sitting or standing positions after every 20 minutes. Get a good chair in your office, if possible, a star shaped five legged chair. Avoid slumping while sitting, use a foot while resting to ensure that your feet are firm on the ground so as to feel comfortable. Avoid bending your neck too much and always keep your shoulders proportionate.

Natural Treatments

  • Ergonomic Chairs

    Investing in a suitable office chair may significantly reduce the occurrence of painful joints and spinal discomfort. A properly selected ergonomic chair which encourages correct posture can effectively prevent discomfort and injury.  

    Things to look for in an ergonomic chair:
    - Adjustability to make sure the head, wrists, and back are in ergonomic conformity.
    - A rolling base
    - Affordable price

    A popular ergonomic solution found to be very popular in today's marketplace is the yoga ball chair (see image on right). These chairs allow the body to come into perfect posture without any effort from this sitter. You can find reviews on these chairs at http://www.yogaBALLchairs.com.

  • Yoga Therapy

    Yoga imparts several health benefits to any individual. Some of the benefits are specifically for the back, others benefit the general health of the body. Yoga increases flexibility and stretches muscles and ligaments. Most importantly, it improves posture which in turn helps in reducing spinal problems.

  • Massage

    Massage reduces muscle tension and ache. It is also great as it improves blood flow which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Alternative approach to middle back pain treatment

Using a spinal stretcher

Medical Treatments

Medical Treatments

  • Chiropractic Care

    Researchers have approved chiropractic care for treating severe spinal issues. This treatment is very effective and felt immediately. If you have chronic mid back pains, it may be what you need to put an end to the problem.

  • Over the Counter Medications

    These can help in relieving mild to moderate discomfort. Tylenol and Aleve for instance, are some of the most commonly used medicines for spinal issues.

  • Prescription Medicine

    Prescription painkillers may be prescribed by a doctor to help cope with discomfort, but they will not fix the source of the problem. Only take with the advice of a highly trusted doctor, as they can be severely addicting which can lead to much greater problems.

  • Steroid shots

    Cortisol (most commonly used) can be injected in the nerves around the spine to reduce swelling as well as aid in relieving pressure on the spinal nerves and nerve roots. Often the nervous system just needs a little assistance in easing off in its firing around the spinal cord. The shots can help calm down the nerves, so the muscles supporting the spine can relax, ultimately relieving the issue.

  • Spinal Surgery

    Severe cases of thoracic spinal injury may require surgery. Please consult with a highly trained Pain Management Doctor and Orthopedist before considering this approach. The results are not 100% guaranteed and can sometimes make matters worse.
Updated: 01/11/2014, ergonomicadvice
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ergonomicadvice on 03/07/2014

Hi Rose, absolutely. Larger sizes require even more strength from the muscles to support the body's frame.

Rose on 03/07/2014

Some back pain is caused by being overweight - there's too much of a load for the poor muscles in the back to support.

ergonomicadvice on 01/11/2014

Thanks, Mira!

Mira on 01/11/2014

I just pinned your herniated disc illustration. Why not include more illustrations for the various conditions? I think that would help readers visualize what you're talking about; it will also help with Pinterest.

ergonomicadvice on 01/09/2014

Thanks Mira. As you said, look at surgery as a last ditch effort. All of the natural treatments have their worth, they just take time and a bit of dedication. Good luck to you.

Mira on 01/09/2014

This is a nice article, Matthew! I was surprised at all those complications from spinal surgery. Not good to rush and get surgery then, huh? I have two herniated discs. Keep wondering what exactly to do about them.

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