Experts estimate as many as eight out of ten people will suffer from back pain during their lifetime. When most Americans talk of back pain, they are referring to the ubiquitous lower back pain. But upper and middle back pain can be just as debilitating.
The area of your body that goes from the base of your neck to the top of the lower, or lumbar, back is called the thoracic. This area of the spine is comprised of a dozen vertebrae, which are attached to the ribs. Taken together, they define the protective space for our internal organs.
Pain in the upper back can have many different causes including physical injury incurred at work or during athletics, a lack of muscular conditioning, and from inactivity such a s sitting at an office desk all day or slumping on the couch all night or weekend watching television or playing video games. The upper and middle back areas are prone to herniated discs among people who don’t exercise and/or are overweight.
Treatment for thoracic back pain varies depending on the cause and intensity. The preferred treatments are exercise and physical therapy, followed by ice packs or heat pads. Many people also find relief through alternative treatments such as acupuncture and acupressure. Stretching can also be very helpful, as long as it’s done carefully with proper form.
Years ago, doctors prescribed bed rest and inactivity to treat thoracic pain. However, modern medical practitioners believe this will actually exacerbate the problem, especially if the immobility lasts longer than two days. Similarly, the inactivity caused by office work worsens the condition. It is strongly advised to get up and walk around to do light stretches every half hour or so. Instead of sting at your desk to eat lunch, take a walk outside and find a park bench. Or eat a lighter lunch and spend more of your lunch hour or breaks walking around the blockThe more you move, the better your chances of easing or preventing middle and upper back pain.
Many office workers have found relief by using ergonomic chairs, which naturally keep the body in proper alignment. Regular exercise, especially weight bearing exercise, can accomplish the same thing. Even just taking a few minutes to do some stretches at your desk can significantly help prevent thoracic pain and keep your middle and upper back strong and healthy.