Middle back stretches can help ease pain, prevent aches, and introduce mobility and flexibility to prevent future injury. Here’s some advice from a chiropractor for 5 simple middle back pain stretches you can do at home.
Chances are, when you think about back pain, your thoughts immediately go to the lower back —this is natural, considering that a great many people suffer from lower back pain.
Neck pain is another problem that plagues modern society. With so much time spent looking at our cell phones, tablets, and laptops, it’s no wonder we don’t complain about neck pain more than we do!
However, pain in the middle of the back isn’t as common, but that doesn’t mean that it hurts any less!
This type of pain often comes on you slowly, and it can occur in the very young or the very old. In a few instances, it appears suddenly, but most people will describe their pain as starting minor and gradually becoming worse or chronic.
Today we will take an in-depth look at the middle back, why it can hurt, and the best ways to naturally stop the pain with middle back stretches, and more.
Where is the Middle Back Located?
If you wonder whether the pain you are feeling is actually in the middle of your back, you aren’t alone.
The middle back is considered the area below the neck but above the rib cage’s very bottom. There are 12 vertebrae in this area, called the thoracic spine —this is the longest part of your spine with ligaments, tendons, and muscles that hold the spine together.
In between each vertebra, there are small cushions called discs. These separate the bones of the spine and absorb shock as you walk, run, and move around.
Since the thoracic spine doesn’t move quite as much as the lower part of the spine (called the lumbar spine), they don’t cause many problems for most people.
These parts all work combined with the rib cage to keep the back stable and protect your vital organs.
Common Signs of Middle Back Pain
The middle back can cause a wide variety of aches and pains, none of them much fun. Some of the most common middle back pain signals include:
- Tightness or stiff feelings in the muscles
- A dull ache
- A burning or numb feeling
- A sharp, stabbing type of pain
- A sense as if a metal or immovable object is lodged between the shoulder blades
There are more uncommon symptoms that might indicate more severe problems are involved, such as:
- Chest pain with a stabbing pain in the middle to the upper back
- Tingling feelings in the arms, legs, or chest
- A loss of bladder or bowel control
- Weakness in the arms or legs
The less common symptoms are often felt along with one or more common symptoms, so people are often not aware that one is related to the other.
If you are experiencing one or more of the less common symptoms together with one or more of the common symptoms, please see your primary care physician or chiropractor right away.
What Causes Middle Back Pain?
Like lower back pain, middle back pain can be caused by several different problems, including:
- Myofascial pain
- Overuse of the muscles/ muscle strain/torn muscles or ligaments
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Disc degeneration
- Pressure on the nerves in the spine (compressed nerves, often called a pinched nerve)
- A fracture of one or more of the vertebrae
- Poor posture
- Injury, such as falling or an auto accident
- Long hours sitting, especially in front of a computer or typing on a keyboard
There are other, more serious reasons for pain in this area, including gall bladder issues, tumors, cancer, or infections, but these are not common.
Those who engage in regular workout routines don’t often suffer from back problems unless there has been an injury.
How is Middle Back Pain Diagnosed?
Your doctor or chiropractor will take a full medical history. They should ask you about your current activities, what you do for a living, your daily habits, exercise routine, and how long you have experienced this type of pain.
After a physical exam, the doctor or chiropractor might decide to take imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, to determine if something is more serious, such as a herniated disc or cracked vertebrae.
You might need more tests to determine the root cause of your pain, but in most instances, a physical exam and imaging tests are often sufficient.
Best Treatment for Middle Back Pain
Treatment for middle back pain will, of course, depend on the root cause. Your chiropractor or doctor will treat poor posture differently than a fractured vertebra.
Many people try folk remedies or home remedies to see if the problem will resolve itself, which is often the case.
Ice or heat therapy is often useful in cases of muscle strain. Some people find one or the other extremely painful. If you can’t stand ice packs on your back, then try soaking in a tub of warm water. If heat packs or warm water cause more pain, try ice packs.
You might want to try over the counter pain medication, but these can interfere with other medications you might be taking, so avoid them if possible.
Anti-inflammatories are often helpful. Speak to your chiropractor or primary care physician for their recommendations.
Additionally, middle back stretches and strengthening exercises can both prevent and help treat pain.
Also see: The 5 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises
5 Simple Middle Back Stretches You Can Do at Home
Many people find that stretching programs, such as yoga, help to relieve back pain. Combining yoga and strengthening exercises will help to prevent future problems in many cases.
(Try these core strength exercises that actually work to prevent middle back pain)
Here is a list of a few of the middle back stretches I recommend for my patients. These are easy enough to do at home and are amazingly effective.
- Cobra Pose
This is a very gentle stretch and strengthening exercise in one easy pose. Don’t pull so hard that you feel pain; go only as far as you can without pain.
Lie on the floor on your stomach, feet straight out behind you. Your palms should be flat on the ground under your shoulders. Bend the elbows back and look directly at the mat.
Inhale and bring your chest off the floor. Your elbows should be hugging your sides. You don’t have to gaze at the ceiling; just keep your head neutral.
Hold for a count of 10 if you can, then return to start.
- Lateral Side Stretch
This one feels so good! You can do this sitting or standing, but for many beginners, sitting is a better option. Be sure you have enough room on both sides to do this exercise.
Sit cross-legged on the floor, with your back straight. Take your left arm, reach it high above your head (really stretch!), and then gently bend towards the right. You should feel this down your left side and back. Remember not to lean forward! Hold for 20-30 seconds, then return to start and repeat with the right side.
- Sphinx Pose
You can do this one lying on a mat on the floor, or even on the sofa or bed if the floor feels too hard for you right now.
Lie on your stomach and place your forearms on the ground near your chest. Keeping your forearms on the ground, pull your chest off the ground and look straight ahead. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.
- Cat/Cow Stretch
This is one of the classic middle back stretches nearly everyone knows. Start on your hands and knees, like a cat or cow. Your knees should be at least a palms width apart and your hands directly under your shoulders.
Inhale and arch your back, like a frightened cat. Look down towards the mat and hold for a count of 5. Return to start and then arch your back as if your belly is going to touch the ground. Look up towards the ceiling, but don’t overstretch the neck. Count to 5 and then relax. Repeat this pose 3-5 times as long as it isn’t causing you any pain.
- Childs Pose
Everyone’s favorite pose —this stretches and strengthens the entire spine, making your entire spine feel relaxed.
Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Your knees should be wider than your hips, but don’t stretch them too far apart if it hurts to do so. If you can turn your toes inward, so much the better; if not, keep your foot straight.
Bend your head and chest towards the floor, pushing your arms out in front of you as you exhale. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Breathe and relax into this pose and imagine your spine stretching out as you do so.
Taking just 15-20 minutes every day for middle back stretches will eliminate a majority of middle back pain.
When Nothing Seems to Work
If you’ve tried middle back stretches, ice, resting, heat therapy, and nothing you try seem to stop your middle back pain, or if the pain becomes worse, it’s time to look at other alternatives.
Your primary care physician might recommend steroid injections or prescription muscle relaxants or pain relievers.
You might also want to try physical therapy and see if you can find relief for your pain.
Often, comprehensive chiropractic care is the perfect answer for stopping middle back pain. Whether you have a herniated disc or if you want to see if your spine alignment is correct, a chiropractor can do so much to help stop back pain.
The one thing you want to avoid, if at all possible, is back surgery. Even the American Medical Association states that those with back pain should visit a chiropractor before deciding on surgery.
A few visits to a physical therapist or chiropractor might be all you need.
Seeing your primary care physician, chiropractor, or even a physical therapist can help you to prevent middle back pain before it starts!
Take good care of yourself, including your spine, so that your body lasts you a lifetime!