If you’ve been scouting the internet desperately trying to find a cause for your back pain then you are not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their life and that at any one time around 10% of the US residents have chronic back pain issues. Chronic pain can take a serious toll on everything from your ability to do the gardening to fulfilling your role at work. Inevitably this means that a significant proportion of sufferers develop depression and feel hopeless about their condition. Most of these individuals will suffer with what we call chronic lower back pain ie back pain in the portion of the spine that is below your rib cage. But what if this doesn’t describe your pain at all? What if your pain is in the middle of the back and often radiated across the ribs? Well, you won’t find much about this sort of back pain online and it can be frustrating trying to find a diagnosis. If you are at all in doubt, speak to a specialist spine centre who see hundreds if not thousands of these sorts of patients each and every year as they are bound to be able to quickly identify a cause due to expertise a family practitioner just doesn’t have.
What could cause mid back pain?
There a number of causes of middle back pain including:
- Degenerative disc disease. Whilst this is significantly less common than having slipped or degenerative discs in the lumbar or cervical spine it can occur either symptomatically or asymptomatically.
- Compression fracture of the thoracic spine. As we grow older we lose bone mass and grow more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a severe form of bone mass loss that can cause wedge or compression fractures of the bones in the spine (where the bones literally buckle under the weight of the head and neck).
- Problems affecting any of the following organs may cause referred pain (this is why it is important not to self diagnose – a trained doctor will be able to rule out serious disease in these organs):
Degenerative disc disease is probably most likely in those with back radiating to the ribs as the bulging disc can cause radiculopathy (this is when the bulging disc compresses a nerve, resulting in pain in the area that nerve supplies eg the rib cage).
What can I do to treat this condition?
As with any cause of back pain it is imperative you seek specialist advice from a spinal centre with trained spinal doctors. If the pain is caused by degenerative disc disease then treatment will begin conservatively and work up to more serious interventions. This can start with physical therapy, include drugs like non steroidal anti inflammatory or involve surgery in severe cases.