By William E. Morgan, DC
There are many sources of dysfunction in the upper back (thoracic spine), especially when we consider the numerous joints and the interlacing of muscles that comprise the thoracic spine and rib cage. If one muscle or joint is injured or inflamed, it can create a cascade of pain and dysfunction that can be difficult to treat.
This article reviews the most common sources of dysfunction in the upper back, and commonly accepted treatment approaches used by chiropractors.
Chiropractic treatment and upper back pain
The mid and upper back is known as the thoracic spine. It is the largest portion of the spine, consisting of 12 of the 24 spinal bones (vertebrae). For comparison, the neck (the cervical spine) has 7 vertebrae while the lower back (the lumbar spine) has 5 vertebrae. All of the thoracic vertebrae articulate with ribs and together protect the thorax–hence the name, thoracic spine.
Upper-back pain is a phenomenon that affects all age groups. Upper-back pain, while common, receives much less attention than neck and lower back pain. There currently is far less research performed on the identification and treatment of mid- and upper back pain than on the neck and lower back.
As a side note, some chiropractors prefer to call their manual joint treatments adjustments rather than manipulations. The term adjustment implies appropriateness and specificity, while some may associate manipulation with imprecision or even the devious manipulation of another’s feelings and behavior.
In addition to chiropractors, osteopathic physicians and some other types of health practitioners – such as physical therapists and occupational therapists – are specifically trained in manual adjustment techniques.