Middle back pain: Causes and relief

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Middle back pain may cause numbness, stiff muscles, or burning sensations. Middle back pain symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause of the pain.

By Jayne Leonard

Middle back pain refers to pain or discomfort in the thoracic spine — the region of the back between the rib cage and the base of the neck.

In this region, there are 12 spinal disks, several vertebrae, and many muscles and ligaments. Any of these structures can become irritated or damaged, leading to middle back pain.

Read on to learn more about the causes of middle back pain and discover techniques to find relief.

Causes of middle back pain

There are many possible causes of middle back pain, ranging from injury to poor posture.

Potential causes include:

1. Aging

Senior man in chiropractors office explains middle back pain to doctor.

Pain in any part of the back becomes more likely as a person ages. Back pain is typical in people aged 30 to 60, but it can affect people of any age.

Natural causes of back pain in older adults include:

  • less fluid between spinal joints
  • reduced muscle mass
  • thinning bones

2. Arthritis

There are a number of different forms of arthritis, some of which can affect the back.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common degenerative joint disease that affects 30 million adults in the United States. OA causes the ends of bones to rub together, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the back. Over time, it causes the vertebrae to fuse together, which can impact posture and mobility.

3. Fractured vertebrae

fracture or broken bone can occur in any of the vertebrae in the middle back as a result of a sports injury, automobile crash, or fall.

Extreme deterioration of the spine over time, such as from osteoarthritis, can also cause a fractured vertebra.

Symptoms include intense pain that gets worse with movement. If the injury affects the spinal cord, it can lead to tingling, numbness, and incontinence. Fractures require immediate medical treatment.

4. Herniated disks

Disks are located between the vertebrae, where they act as shock-absorbing cushions. They also help a person move.

The disks are filled with liquid and can rupture or bulge outward. This is known as a herniated disk, slipped disk, or ruptured disk, and it puts pressure on the surrounding nerves.

A herniated disk in the middle back does not always cause symptoms, but it may result in pain, tingling, or numbness.

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