Thoracic back pain is pain that occurs in the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is located at the back of the chest (the thorax), mostly between the shoulder blades. It extends from the bottom of the neck to the start of the lumbar spine, roughly at the level of the waist.
How common is thoracic spine pain?
Researchers were asked to find out how many people got back pain and came back with the answer 'between 4 and 72 people out of 100'. Political pollsters who had never before heard such pinpoint forecasting immediately hired these researchers to predict the outcome of the next general election.
The truth is that unless the question is asked in exactly the same way, different surveys will give different answers. It's known that teenage girls are particularly prone to thoracic back pain. The dreaded backpack is undoubtedly to blame. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to get rid of school lockers and make children drag a hundredweight of books to and from school on their backs every day, I have no idea.
Is it something to worry about?
The short answer, in most cases, is no. Most people with thoracic spine pain get better without treatment in a couple of weeks.
However, thoracic back pain is more likely to be due to a serious cause than pain in other areas of the spine. There is a whole list of things to look out for that might indicate there's a problem. Having a red flag does not mean you will have someone walking in front of you when you drive down the road, but it does mean you need to consult your friendly neighbourhood doctor. The sort of red flags I'm going on about include pain coming on shortly after an accident, having a condition that causes a wonky immune system, feeling generally unwell, or having pain that's getting worse after a couple of weeks' treatment.
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- Chua NH, Gultuna I, Riezebos P, et al; Percutaneous thoracic intervertebral disc nucleoplasty: technical notes from 3 patients with painful thoracic disc herniations. Asian Spine J. 2011 Mar 5(1):15-9. doi: 10.4184/asj.2011.5.1.15. Epub 2011 Mar 2.
- Masaracchio M, Kirker K, Collins CK, et al; An intervention-based clinical reasoning framework to guide the management of thoracic pain in a dancer: a case report. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Dec 11(7):1135-1149.
- Thoracic Disc Herniation; Orthobullets
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