Middle Back Pain

Common Back Pain

When most people experience back pain, it’s usually in their lower back. The middle back, or thoracic spine, is far less prone to injury because it is less mobile and does not carry as much of your body weight. Although less common, it is possible to experience pain or discomfort anywhere from the bottom of your neck to roughly waist level.

If you are experiencing middle back or thoracic spine pain (TSP), the doctors at Desert Institute for Spine Care are here for you. We focus on compassionate care and sophisticated diagnostic techniques to help us find the source of your middle back pain and develop a personalized treatment approach.

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Woman holding her back due to back pain
Model of the human skeleton with areas affected by middle back pain highlighted
X-ray view of human skeleton model showing the back and spine

What Is Middle Back Pain?

Middle back pain is a symptom rather than a condition, and it usually points to some injury or illness of the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine has far less range of motion than the upper or lower back. Its main functions are to provide stability, protect the spinal cord and provide an attachment point for the ribs and various muscle groups.

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Where is the Thoracic Region?

Patient Education

Your spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae, 12 of which are located in the thoracic region. This middle back area is found at the back of the chest, extending from the bottom of the neck to the start of the low back.

Along with the vertebrae, the middle back consists of shock-absorbing spinal discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels.

When you experience damage, injury or irritation to any of the thoracic spine structures, you may experience TSP.

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What Causes Middle Back Pain?

Thoracic spine pain is more often caused by serious underlying spinal pathology compared to the causes of lower back or neck pain. However, this symptom can also occur in healthy individuals with no apparent injury or illness. Surprisingly, children and adolescents, primarily females, are more prone to TSP. This could be due to a number of factors, including heavy backpack use, participation in certain sports, chair height at school or strain while doing homework.

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Common Causes for Middle Back Pain in Adults Include:

Aging, as well as daily pressure on the spine and back muscles, can result in middle back pain. Lifestyle factors also play a role, including poor posture, obesity, inactivity and smoking.

This injury is caused by stretching or tearing the muscles, tendons or ligaments of your back with a sudden, jerky movement or improperly lifting something heavy.

Injuries due to car accidents, falls and playing sports can all lead to TSP.

If the spinal discs in the thoracic spine become compressed, bulge or rupture, the pressure put on nerves can cause severe middle back pain.

When the cartilage covering the joints breaks down, the bones can rub together and cause painful symptoms in the middle back.

Compressed nerves in your back can create minor to severe pain.

Symptoms of Middle Back Pain

The pain that people experience in their middle back can be characterized in various ways, including tenderness, tightness or stiffness. Patients also describe their pain as feeling dull, sharp or stabbing. TSP can be accompanied by a burning sensation in the middle back.

Additional side effects that sometimes accompany middle back pain include:

  • Pain that radiates to other areas of your body, such as the shoulders, neck or hips
  • Muscle aches
  • Weakness in your arms or legs
  • Tingling or numbness in the chest, belly or extremities
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

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Detailed drawings of the spine and other bone areas of the human body.

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Middle Back Pain Treatment in Phoenix, Arizona

There are a variety of effective and innovative treatment options for middle back pain. At DISC in Arizona, our first aim is to provide an accurate diagnosis. Because of the various potential causes, we use a proprietary diagnostic technique called Personalized Pain Diagnostics (PPD) to find the specific pain generator.

Once we understand your unique pain journey, we work with you to develop a personalized treatment approach. As leaders in minimally invasive spine care, we always start with the least invasive option, including non-surgical treatments like:

  • Stretches and exercises.
  • Rest.
  • Pain medication.
  • Therapeutic pain injections.

However, if your middle back pain symptoms progress, we may recommend surgical intervention. The spinal care experts at DISC specialize in a wide range of surgical options, including minimally invasive procedures.

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Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Find Experienced Doctors Who Treat Middle Back Pain in AZ

If you’ve been struggling with middle back pain and nothing seems to relieve your symptoms, contact the orthopedic spine surgeons at DISC to learn about your treatment options. Take the first step toward relieving your pain and enjoying life again.


Our spine health blog features up-to-date spine education and expert spine tips from our spine specialists here at DISC.

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