What is Thoracic Pain?
Thoracic pain is a generalized term that’s used to describe pain that occurs anywhere in the thoracic spine region of the back. You might refer to it as mid or even upper back pain. Thoracic pain can afflict anyone. In fact, school-aged girls are one of the most common groups to report pain in this region.
One study found that thoracic pain afflicted 4-72% of all individuals throughout the course of their lives. Unfortunately, that’s not a very useful study because the results are so widely differing.
We believe it’s likely that every individual experiences this type of back pain at least once in their lives. Fortunately, it’s temporary for most and resolves on its own after a few days with rest and perhaps an over-the-counter pain medication. It’s when the condition is more persistent or intolerable that medical intervention is required.
The Thoracic Spine
Let’s talk for a minute about the thoracic spine. As we mentioned, any pain in this back region tends to get the umbrella term, thoracic pain. The thoracic spine is the largest region in your spine and covers many areas, so there can be numerous different causes and symptoms of thoracic pain.
Your thoracic spine has 12 vertebrae which are conveniently labeled T1-T12. T1 begins at the base of your neck, directly below your cervical spine, and runs down through T12, located basically at the bottom of your ribcage. The region below it is your lumbar spine, and that’s referred to, by most people, as your low back. To put it more clearly, your thoracic spine starts at about the level of the top of your shoulders and runs to just below your ribs.
The span that the thoracic spine covers is often called the upper or mid-back, but individuals feeling pain up near their shoulders will relate it as upper back pain, and those having it in the lower regions might confuse it for low back pain. This is part of the problem when diagnosing and treating thoracic back pain, and it’s why it’s very important to have a qualified pain physician, like ours at Downtown Pain Physicians, diagnose the specific cause of your pain.
Your ribs attach directly to the thoracic spine, making it very strong and stabilizing. It also prevents that region of your body from having as much flexibility as other areas of your spine. Because this region of your back is so strong, it’s not typically where injuries occur, but it becomes more vulnerable as we age. There are issues with osteoporosis and weakening muscles and joints.
Why do young children, especially teen girls, often suffer from thoracic spine issues? One reason is that they’re prone to hunching over during puberty to disguise their developing body, and taller children often want to appear shorter, so they still fit in with their peer group.
Another reason that affects all school-aged children, the dreaded backpack. This heavy bag, thrown casually over one shoulder, can stress and strain the thoracic spine. Even when worn correctly, it can add significant weight to the body in an abnormal way. Another concern for all people, but it seems especially prevalent in teens, is posture.
Symptoms of Thoracic Pain
Because the thoracic spine covers so much ground, there can be a lot of different symptoms. Some more common ones include:
- Sharp or stabbing pains
- Burning or searing pain
- Very centralized pain in one location
- An aching or throbbing in that region of the body
- Stiffness or an inability to move
- Arm movements are difficult or limited
- Radiating pain from the back outward or up and down
- Electric shock type pains
- Numbness and tingling
- General weakness in back and extremities
- Inability to sit, stand, or rest comfortably for long periods of time
The symptoms associated with thoracic pains are very broad and they can come on suddenly with injury or without injury. Pains in the thoracic region can be delayed. As an example, it’s not uncommon for someone who’s been in an accident to not feel their back pain fully until several hours to a day or two after the injury as the inflammation slowly sets in. And some people experience thoracic pain that’s only mildly noticeable at first but gradually worsens.
What Causes Thoracic Pain
We’ve alluded to several causes of thoracic pain above, which include many factors that teens encounter, accidents, and injuries. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of upper and mid back pain.
- Poor posture
- Stress or strain (improper lifting, exercising or moving unnaturally, trying a new sport, backpacks etc.)
- Overuse or repetitive use
- Accident or injury
- Herniated discs
- Arthritis and joint dysfunction or disease (osteoarthritis)
- Birth or congenital defects (scoliosis)
- Other diseases
Remember that your thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae, and it covers a large portion of your torso. That means that the causes can be many and different. It’s not uncommon for someone to have several causes of back pain throughout the course of their lives and to suffer from differing symptoms. Sometimes the cause is obvious, and treatment is fairly uncomplicated.
In other situations, it may take a lot of diagnostic work to determine the cause, and the underlying treatment plan might not even be focused on your back pain at all. Sometimes gallbladder issues, intestinal infections, and even some types of cancer first present as thoracic pain. This is why it’s so important that you take all of your pains seriously and seek medical attention to get the best outcomes possible.
Thoracic Pain Prevention
Some thoracic pain can be prevented, other types of back pain that involve the thoracic spine are not avoidable. But things that you can do to help limit your exposure to injury and problems with the thoracic spine include:
- Proper posture
- Use roller bags instead of backpacks
- If using a backpack, wear it properly (not over one shoulder)
- Stay active and exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Quit smoking (more smokers have chronic back pain and disc degeneration)
- Use correct lifting techniques
- Slowly ease into new sports and activities
Diagnosing Thoracic Pain
Getting upper and mid back pains diagnosed and treating the underlying causes can be critical, especially if this pain is unrelated to any recent sporting or lifting injuries.
If you live in the NYC area and are looking for thoracic pain relief, then the first step is to connect with our office and schedule a visit at one of our convenient clinics.
When the doctor sees you, you will be asked to give a thorough history of your pain symptoms and detail how it feels. You’ll have a physical exam, and the doctor may find that they’d like an x-ray or an MRI to pinpoint the cause of your pain. These diagnostic tests will be done in our state-of-the-art facility, so there’s no need to wait or go elsewhere. Our goal is to get you on the road to feeling better as soon as possible.
Treatment for Thoracic Pain
There are a wide variety of treatment options available for people suffering from thoracic pain. Initial and conservative treatments include heat or ice, stretching, and over-the-counter pain medications. Most people try these first before they even contact our offices, and they are the great first line of defense techniques, but they’re often not enough.
For other people, the underlying cause of their thoracic pain is more severe or chronic, and treatment may be largely unrelated to spinal pain. To determine the severity of your back pain and a specific treatment plan, it’s best to make an appointment to meet one of our doctors.
Thoracic Pain Treatment Options at Downtown Pain Physicians
If you decide to visit Downtown Pain Physicians, then treatment for your thoracic pain will typically begin with conservative care. Your individual treatment plan will be based on your symptoms, the cause of pain, your comfort with the treatment options available and your response to initial care. While each patient experiences a different and customized treatment plan, some treatments you may experience include the following:
- Chiropractic treatment
- Physician therapy
- Stretching exercises
- Oral anti-inflammatory medication
- Topical patches for medication
- Mechanical bracing
- Steroid injections
- Radiofrequency nerve ablation or nerve blocks
Why Choose Downtown Pain Physicians for Your Thoracic Pain
If you are suffering from thoracic pain, it’s important to be seen by a doctor to determine what the cause is and to help find the best solution to resolve your pain issues. Our doctors are dedicated to each patient and believe that individual care is the best way to achieve results. We listen carefully to your pain history and use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to make accurate diagnoses. If you’re looking for thoracic pain relief in the New York City area, then it’s time to visit one of our two convenient locations. Our doctors are top-rated specialists in relieving pain and will do what is necessary to find the cause of your pain and help you find relief.
Meet Your Doctor – Dr. Raj Raval, M.D.
Top-Rated Interventional Pain and Musculoskeletal Medicine Specialist
Dr. Raj Raval is an Interventional Pain & Musculoskeletal Medicine Specialist. As part of the best-rated team of pain management doctors in New York City, he uses the most effective pain management and pain control treatment options using the latest technologies available.
Dr. Raj Raval, M.D.
- Board certified
- Interventional Pain & Musculoskeletal Medicine Specialist
- Member of AAPMR, Spine Intervention Society (SIS), North American Spine Society, American Society of Interventional Pain
Our Facilities Are State of the Art
Not only do we have the best doctors around, we believe we have one of the best facilities. Where you receive your care and the tools the doctor has at their disposal can mean a lot for a successful treatment plan. We’re quite proud of our well-appointed and modern facility; it makes the experience more comfortable for our patients and supplies our doctors with the equipment they need.
Our pain facilities are in Brooklyn and Manhattan and conveniently located for residents in Downtown Brooklyn, Lower, Midtown and Upper East Side of Manhattan, the East Village, Greenwich Village, or Murphy-Hill.
Our quality of care is considered among the finest in the country, and with the technology and expertise to back it up, our patients find the relief they are seeking. Connect with one of our offices today to take the first step toward relieving your sciatic nerve pain.
What Our Patients Have to Say
We know we have the best doctors and facility around, and our patients agree.
July 25, 2021 – Ellyn V. Verified patient
Dr. Raj was very informative, and he really spent enough time listening and discussing my issue. He walked me through the treatment plan step by step, and I didn’t feel rushed throughout my appointment at all. I felt at ease and I’m confident that he can help fix my medical issue. There was virtually no wait time and everyone was so accommodating.
June 15, 2021 – Melissa W. Verified patient
I would highly recommend Dr. Raval. He was patient, kind and knowledgeable. Made me at ease which is very important in my book. Office was professional and helpful. Cannot say a negative thing at all about my experience…
June 30, 2021 – Kay R. Verified patient
This was a friendly and efficient visit, and was able to leave the office in far less pain than when I walked in- which for me is a complete success.
June 3, 2021 – Juliana C. Verified patient
Attentive, concise, and thorough. I am 6 months pregnant with a new spine issue. I’m 34, fairly active and I’ve never had serious back problems before. Being pregnant, I almost felt helpless with what solutions I may have. Dr Raval talked to me, listened, and did a physical exam- he fully understood my problem and explained the what, why, and how of it all. He talked through all my treatment options and even spoke to my OB over the phone with me in the room before concluding with a solution. Front desk staff is courteous and efficient. Definitely would recommend to family and friends.
What to Expect at Downtown Pain Physicians
At your first visit to our office, you can expect a thorough health examination and history so your doctor can get a good idea of your health concerns. There may be x-rays or an ultrasound evaluation necessary to gain a deeper understanding of your condition. Still, these diagnostic tests will be done in our office at your visit. No need to go elsewhere or suffer through long wait times while another clinic looks for openings.
After a diagnosis is achieved, your doctor will have a thorough discussion of treatment options with you to make sure you know what steps are possible and you can make an informed decision. You’ll also receive a detailed recovery plan, so you never have to question what to do next.
We want your visit to our offices to be as pleasant as possible from the moment you walk through our doors. Individual attention is part of the fabric of our practice, and it’s a critical component in an effective treatment plan. Whether you’re suffering from thoracic pain or any other type of back pain, we are here to help you find pain relief and get back to living your life.
The information on this website is to provide general information. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive treatment advice. It is essential to consult a best-in-class pain management specialist in New York regarding ANY questions or issues. A thorough evaluation should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call your pain doctor to schedule a consultation.