Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
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Thoracic back pain is discomfort in the middle and upper part of the back.
The back has many small bones, muscles, and soft tissues that surround and protect the spinal cord. Nerves also leave the spinal cord in the back. Pain may be caused by stress, strain, or injury to any of these structures, such as:
Rarely, thoracic back pain may be caused by more serious problems like an infection in the spine, heart or lung problems, or cancer.
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Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
These health problems may also raise the risk of this type of back pain:
The symptoms a person has and how long they last depend on the cause. Problems may also be felt now and then or all the time.
Problems with muscle or soft tissue may cause:
Nerve problems may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the back.
Images may be taken for pain that is severe or not going away. This can be done with:
Any underlying causes will need to be treated. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms to give the back time to heal. Treatments may include:
Most people are not helped by surgery.
To lower the risk of thoracic back pain:
American Pain Society
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Back Care Canada—Canadian Spine Society
Canadian Pain Society
Evaluation of neck and back pain. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal_and_connective_tissue_disorders/neck_and_back_pain/evaluation_of_neck_and_back_pain.html. Updated August 2019. Accessed May 14, 2020.
Examination of the spine. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/examination-of-the-spine. Updated August 11, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2020.
Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, ninth edition. ICSI 2017 Jul PDF.
Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoporosis. Updated February 28, 2020. Accessed May 14, 2020.
Thoracic back pain. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/thoracic-back-pain. Updated September 29, 2016. Accessed May 14, 2020.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 3/31/2021