Do You Have Upper Back Pain?

Everyone experiences a bit of back pain at some point. While countless people shrug the pain off as a part of life, others struggle with chronic pain for months. Back pain can happen anywhere along the spine, but upper back pain can be excruciating. The condition is not as common as lower back pain, but upper back pain causes additional health challenges if left untreated. If the back pain triggers a trip to the doctor, the topic of thoracic herniated discs can arise.

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Poor posture and injury

There are several reasons why someone would get upper back pain. Most cases happen due to slouching and poor posture. Spending hours sitting in the wrong position can also weaken the back muscles. Weakened muscles increase the chances of strains, sprains, and spinal injuries. Besides poor posture, upper back pain can happen due to injuries like car accidents and falls.

Wearing things down

The muscles and bones in the upper back can also wear down over time. Muscle overuse typically happens in weight training, sports, and physical jobs. Over time, strains, myofascial pain, and muscle inflammation can occur. While overuse injuries are happening, the bones and joints can wear down due to osteoarthritis. Osteorarhtirits cause pain since the bones now rub together. The condition could also cause thoracic herniated discs.

Understanding herniated discs

Herniated discs are a common problem for people experiencing back pain. The spine has bones called vertebrae. Fibrous discs separate each vertebra and help with shock absorption and a little bit of movement. Sometimes, the outer annulus of the disc weakens, allowing the softer disc material to bulge or herniate. This herniated disc presses on surrounding nerves, causing pain, weakness, and discomfort.

Could it be thoracic?

Thoracic herniated discs are rarely talked about because the condition is a bit rare. Most cases of a herniated disc appear in the lower back or neck region. However, there are some symptoms behind thoracic herniated discs. The 12 vertebrae of the thoracic region start from the base of the neck and end at the abdomen. The rib cage attaches to this area, which protects most of the spinal cord. Most pain and discomfort will start at the back and move to the ribs or chest. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, weakness in the arms and legs, and poor bowel movement. The pain can vary based on the direction of the herniated disc.

Treating your herniated disc

A doctor will confirm the herniated disc with an x-ray and MRI. From there, both doctor and patient will try a range of conservative treatments to manage the pain. Thoracic herniated disc treatment includes:

  • Using OTC or prescription anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDs. These can help relieve flare-ups.
  • Physical therapy helps to improve strength and flexibility, which in turn helps with pain management.
  • Steroid injections send helpful steroids and anesthetic medication to the location, lasting several months.
  • Rest, bracing, and temperature therapy, as needed.

A combination of these techniques should help within a few weeks. However, should all these fail, the doctor will consider surgery.

Surgery and the future of your back pain

Surgery happens in rare cases where the doctors feel the procedure will outweigh the risks. The surgeon will need to remove some or all of the disc material. Because of the location of these discs, there is a chance of damaging the spine. For the few thoracic surgeries that do occur, the outcomes are positive. Upper back pain that lasts for months without relief must be taken seriously. In some cases, the issue could be a herniated disc. Doctors advise anyone with upper back pain to see a specialist immediately.

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