The thoracic spine, the part of the spine that starts just below the neck to half-way down the back, is often a neglected part of the body, which is surprising considering that it is as prone to stiffness as other parts of the spine, but not so surprising since it is a difficult area of the body to stretch. A stiff thoracic spine can cause pain between the shoulder blades but can also cause excess loading of the lumbar spine, the neck and shoulders, which in turn can lead to pain in these areas as well as headaches. In really extreme cases, a stiff thoracic spine can lead to an unsightly condition known as Dowager’s (or Bison’s) Hump, which is a thickening of the soft tissues at the base of the neck. Like so many other modern-day problems resulting from work, people who spend hours either in the car or sitting poorly in front of computer screens are particularly prone to thoracic stiffness, and the attendant problems this can cause. People with poor posture are also at risk. On a more general level, since the thoracic spine provides much of the rotation and extension of the spine required for athletes, anyone that plays sport is likely to find their movement restricted and performance limited by stiffness in this part of the spine. Injuries in other parts of the body may well follow as a result. The Physiotherapist will take a thorough history and provide a physical exam. After the assessment, the Physio will develop a plan to correct the underlying problems. These will be explained to the patient and then perform it by applying precise and gentle techniques to the specific areas of malfunction.
Conservative treatments Physiotherapists may use are:
- Mobilisation and manipulation to help relieve pain and improve function.
- Massage to help reduce muscle tension and pain and improve blood flow.
- Dry needling/Acupuncture promotes healing and pain relief.
- Electrotherapy such as ultrasound, laser, interferential, TENS
- Hot and cold packs to reduce pain and stiffness.
- Patient education on correct posture, chair and workplace ergonomics.
- Exercise prescription to stretch and strengthen the muscles of your back, shoulders, and stomach to help increase your flexibility, strength, and balance. Your physio may teach you an exercise program so you can do it at home.
- Rehabilitation is very important to prevent the pain from becoming chronic. Many patients are relieved from their mid back pain after a few visits and some patients benefit in maintaining physiotherapy care regularly because it keeps their bodies in optimum condition.
Physiotherapists are a key healthcare professional to reduce mid back pain. If you are suffering from pain or know someone with pain, seek help early, the longer delay in starting the treatment, the longer time it takes to recover.