What is Thoracic Pain?
Thoracic pain, also known as mid-back pain or upper back pain is much less common than low back or neck pain. Frequently thoracic back pain has a benign musculoskeletal origin, but may indicate a more serious underlying problem. The word thoracic means “pertaining to the chest” hence the thoracic spine forms the back of the chest wall. With markedly less mobility than the cervical spine above and lumbar spine below, the thoracic spine’s main function is to provide protection for the vital organs in the chest, such as the heart and lungs, as well as allow stability for standing upright.
Even though the majority of mid-back pain is harmless, when present in the following situations an individual should seek medical attention:
- History of a recent infection
- Temperature over 100° F
- IV drug use, which increases risk of an infectious cause
- Unexplained weight loss, which may be associated with cancer
When the following conditions are present, one should seek emergency care:
- Weakness or paralysis
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Prior history of cancer
- Recent significant trauma such as a fall from a height or motor vehicle accident
Causes of Thoracic Pain
There are many probable causes of thoracic pain including spinal stenosis or hematomas. Diseases of the spinal column like a compression fracture, tumor, and scoliosis can also cause more problems.