Accessibility Tools

What is Thoracic Pain?

Thoracic pain is the pain and discomfort caused due to damage to the muscles, nerves, bones, and joints of the upper and middle part of the spine. 

Causes of Thoracic Pain

The causes of thoracic back pain include:

  • Muscle tension due to poor posture
  • Repetitive physical activity
  • Sports injuries
  • Herniated disc
  • Nerve compression
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine
  • Osteoporosis-related fractures
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Muscular disorders
  • Tumors 
  • Spinal infection

Symptoms Associated with Thoracic Pain

Thoracic pain can vary from a dull ache to a burning or sharp, stabbing pain. It may be associated with:

  • Stiff muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty sleeping

Diagnosis of Thoracic Pain

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this, a physical examination of your spine will be performed. Physical tests are performed to assess movement and function. Some of the common diagnostic tests ordered include:

  • X-rays: During this study, high electromagnetic energy beams are used to produce images of the bones.
  • CT scan: Detailed cross-sectional images of the body are obtained using multiple x-rays in a special scanner. 
  • MRI Scan: This is an imaging study that uses large magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the body especially the soft tissues.
  • Nerve blocks: Nerve block is an injection of anesthetic and steroid medication around the spinal nerve root to determine the source of pain and provide relief.

Treatment for Thoracic Pain

The main goal for the treatment for thoracic pain is to relieve pain and restore the normal function, this includes:

  • Medications: Your doctor will recommend over-the-counter medications to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Physical therapy: Special exercises and other techniques are recommended to relieve pain.
  • Application of ice and heat: Applying heat and ice can reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Facet joint blocks: A facet joint block is an injection with anesthesia and corticosteroid into facet joints at the back of the spine to prevent the transmission of pain signals.
  • Epidural spinal injections: This consists of a strong anti-inflammatory corticosteroid and an anesthetic that is administered into the epidural space of the spine to relieve back pain.

If non-surgical methods fail to improve the symptoms, surgery will be recommended and may include:

  • Laminotomy: This procedure involves the removal of a part of the lamina (part of the vertebral bone at the back of the spine) to alleviate nerve compression.
  • Laminectomy: The entire lamina is removed to decompress the spinal cord.
  • Discectomy: This surgery removes all or part of a spinal disc to alleviate nerve compression.
  • Kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty: Fractures due to osteoporosis may be repaired by injecting bone cement into the defect.
  • Depaul University Logo
  • Midwestern University Logo
  • Ascension Logo
  • University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Logo