Mid/Upper Back Pain

Mid and upper back pain.

Chiropractic treatment can provide relief for many people with mid and upper back pain. The spine is divided into three sections: the lower back, the mid to upper back and the neck. Your middle and upper back are the longest portion of your spine—called the thoracic spine—which anchors the rib cage. As part of your backbone, the thoracic spine is subject to the same ailments that can affect the rest of the spine. However, because it is attached to the ribs, it has less movement than other parts of your spine, so problems with it are not as common as with the lower back or neck.

The thoracic spine includes the 12 vertebrae that run between the base of the neck and the low back region. Pain in the mid or upper back may be felt anywhere between the base of the neck where your cervical spine ends to the bottom of your ribcage where your lumbar spine begins. It can also be felt around the shoulder blades and between the ribs.

Causes of Mid and Upper Back Pain

There are numerous vertebrae, joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves that must work together for proper functioning of the mid and upper back. When something goes wrong with any part of this interconnected system, pain and inflammation can result. The pain can be dull, aching, burning or sharp, and it may be accompanied by muscle tightness or stiffness. If a nerve in the thoracic spine is pinched, the effects may be felt in the arms, legs or other places that the nerve travels.

Middle and upper back pain can come from:

  • sprains and strains
  • muscle knots
  • a pinched nerve
  • torn ligaments or muscles
  • joint damage
  • a disc problem

What causes these problems?

  • Poor posture — Activities like working at a computer can keep our posture in a forward-bended position, particularly if we tend to slouch. When our neck is bent forward and down, we can develop thoracic spine pain as well as cervical kyphosis, an unnatural curvature of the spine which can lead to a hunched back.
  • Injury — Whether because of a sports injury, an accident or a repetitive stress injury, overstretching the back muscles can cause pain and could result in vertebrae slipping out of place.
  • Heavy lifting — Daily activities such as carrying heavy backpacks or lifting heavy loads at work can lead to misalignment of the thoracic spine and may cause disc problems.
  • Long hours of driving — People who drive for a living are prone to thoracic spine problems. For example, bus drivers have three times more mid and upper back problems than the general population.
  • Sleep positions — Keeping your body in the wrong position for several hours each night can result in misalignment of the mid and upper back.

Although pain in the mid and upper back is usually due to injury or poor posture, it can sometimes have a more serious cause, which must be ruled out before treatment begins.

What to Expect at Your First Chiropractic Visit

Many mid and upper back problems involve other parts of the spine as well, so chiropractors will look at your entire spine when you come for an evaluation. Pain in your upper back sometimes stems from disease in another part of your body, so an accurate diagnosis is important. Chiropractors typically take your health history, give a complete examination and, if necessary, take x-rays or request a different imaging study. A treatment plan will be devised for you based on a thorough evaluation.

Treatment of Thoracic Spine Pain

Chiropractic Care for Back Pain.

Treatment for mid or upper back pain may involve a variety of techniques, based on what is causing your discomfort. Treatments may include:

  • Gentle manipulation (adjustments) of your spine
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Adjustment of the ribs
  • Heat or ice
  • Massage
  • Treatment with a weighted device that works on head position
  • Electrical stimulation, ultrasound or cold laser therapy

Why Seek Chiropractic Care for Mid and Upper Back Pain?

Chiropractic care has been shown to be effective in treating mid and upper back pain as well as improving range of motion and posture. Here are two studies of note:

  • A study of 30 patients with mid- and upper-back pain found a statistically significant improvement in both range of motion and pain threshold among those who received chiropractic adjustments when compared to patients who received placebo treatment (“pretend” adjustments).
  • Another study of women with with abnormal curvature of the spine found that the greatest improvement in posture resulted from chiropractic manipulation (adjustments) of the thoracic spine in combination with stretching and strengthening exercises.

Chiropractic care offers a surgery- and medication-free option for treating your mid to upper back pain. The research shows that in addition to relieving pain, chiropractic treatment can help reduce stiffness and get you moving freely again—so before you consider more invasive treatments like medication or surgery, schedule an appointment with a chiropractor.

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I've been coming to see Dr. Bob since 1984 for my back pain. After each visit, the vast improvement lasts about one whole month. Even after all these years, Dr. Bob continues to provide outstanding care for me, my children, and my grandchildren. I've referred several people to HealthWise Chiropractic, so they too can see the results I have. My favorite part of my visits is the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and doctors and, of course, the results I get that improve my daily living."
    Danny S.
  • "About ten years ago I was at the gym, I bent over and couldn't get up, the pain was horrible. I contacted Healthwise and Dr. Mike gave me an emergency appointment that evening. He did a complete physical and x-ray before he started any treatment. After my first treatment I was able to stand up and walk with minimal pain. With a few visits I was back to normal. I continued treatments as needed for the next several years.
    I see Dr. Bob regularly to stay fit and pain-free. He tests my strength and weakness to determine the best treatment. Our open discussion led him to help my acid reflux. I now exercise and walk as is essential for a septuagenarian.
    I told Dr. Bob that I was starting to get knee pain that I thought was arthritis; I didn't think chiropractic care could help. He told me about new equipment to help. I look forward to improvement.
    I was a skeptic of chiropractic care, now I would recommend HealthWise to anyone with chronic/simple pain. It worked for me. It can work for you!"
    Sherry B.
  • "I was very miserable with constant pain in my leg while knowing it had something to do with my back. My friend surprised me with an appointment with Dr. Bob. After being treated by Dr. Bob I knew right away it was exactly what I needed. I learned a lot through my conversations with the doctor. I am really thankful to Dr. Bob and his staff."
    Ed L.
  • "I had a very limited understanding of chiropractic care until I tried it for the first time 12 years ago. I came in with severe pain in my neck, which prohibited me from moving my head. I was greeted by a kind staff, had an exam and x-rays done on my first appointment followed by an adjustment. I felt so much better after my first adjustment and by following the treatment plan my headaches and migraines improved. My overall health has improved because of chiropractic care. Dr. Bob helps make sure that I am taking the right supplements to optimize my health and fitness performance. They have helped me with allergies, knee and shoulder pain, and earaches. I had no idea when I began my chiropractic journey just how much help the doctors and staff at HealthWise would be at improving my quality of life."
    Britt H.
  • "I have been a patient at HealthWise Chiropractic for over 20 years. In the past and currently I am seeing Dr. Bob, however, I have seen all docs at Healthwise. My general issues are usually seasonally related to sinus and allergies. Recently I have been receiving treatment for my hip and lower back. Dr. Bob zeros in on trigger points and quickly relieves my pain. He is a wealth of knowledge and offers help and suggestion on my health issues. The staff is friendly and helpful. I leave feeling better and I believe helps to keep my body aligned and energized. I have also come in after falls, injuries and surgeries. I truly believe my adjustments at the time added to a quicker recovery."
    Liz B.
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Bob for two and half months. . I see him for an adjustment every two weeks. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in January 2021 while working in Florida for my continued lower back pain and chronic bilateral hip bursitis. Because my pain was mostly relieved with continued adjustments, I decided to continue with treatment when returning to Wisconsin. I have been very happy with my continued pain relief/adjustments at HealthWise. I highly recommend anyone with chronic back and neck pain to try chiropractic adjustments here at HealthWise. It will make your life better."
    Marianne V.
  • "Really enjoyed the different things that they can do for you and your pain management. Would highly recommend."
    Rhiannon P.
  • "I enjoy coming, getting readjusted and any additional therapies. It has made my life healthier and less stressful. If I have questions, they are answered at that visit. The staff is very professional, personable and friendly. I always look forward to my next visit with them. I am glad to be part of Healthwise Chiropractic family:)"
    Marcella L.
  • "DR MIKE IS A GREAT CHIROPRACTOR. HE TAKES THE TIME TO GIVE YOU A COMPLETE ADJUSTMENT IS TIME. HE IS ALSO A GOOD CONVERSATIONALIST. THANKS"
    RICHARD R.
  • "Dr. Mike is fantastic! He is very personable….will take time to really to your needs… I enjoy my visits…the maintenance has helped tremendously…..and he is there when the emergency pops up! Excellent Chiropractor!"
    Ann W.


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