Mid-back and Rib Cage Pain

               That one fateful day when you wake up from sleep or during activity you notice a very uncomfortable sensation in the mid-back and rib cage region. Not sure what to think of it except what you do know is that it’s painful and seems like the pain is getting worse and even starting to travel around the ribcage. “What did I do?” you think to yourself, is it a muscle pull or maybe my spine or rib cage moved out of position? You’re not quite sure where the pain is coming from and what possibly could have caused it but you need an answer and you need to resolve this terribly uncomfortable feeling in your mid-back and rib area. If this has been you, or it is you now then look no further because the pain you have or you are experiencing is common and many times its due to a multitude of routine activities and tasks. I am going to explain what the cause of this pain can be from, where the pain is coming from and its origin as well as how to treat it.

                Pain can come from many different mechanisms (how you injured yourself), whether you lead a very active lifestyle or you work most of your day in a desk/corporate environment or just the everyday grind of your daily routine: driving, working, taking care of your children, sleeping, etc.…you can aggravate your mid-back or rib cage area. When we create repetitive movements day in and day out like anything the “wear and tear” will affect your body. When you move, your body goes through a multitude of reactions, like contracting a group of muscles and relaxing a group of muscles. Your joint structures are attached to these muscles so if the reaction of movement occurs in the mid-back region then it can push and pull on the spinal joints as well as the rib joints (yes, the ribs have joint lines that meet the spinal bones(vertebrae) in the thoracic/mid-back section). If you are wondering what type of reactions could happen in this area that could trigger an injury, well let’s start with breathing. When you breathe the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your mid-back and rib cage area move as well. Each rib has its own muscle attached to it called the intercostal muscles. When you reach for a glass on a shelf or you are at your computer typing you are using your mid back soft tissues like the muscles to accomplish these actions. These are just a few examples of the everyday stress and strain that this part of your body can go through. Now you don’t really notice it until you’re in pain and how we all take for granted those simple tasks like breathing until it becomes terribly painful.

                Now that we have established the mechanism and what can trigger this pain, I will go over what part of your body is actually sending you those pain signals. Just like the rest of your spine whether it’s the neck or low back or in this case the mid-back you have nerve roots that exit the spine and travel to different areas of your body to communicate with it and tell it what to do as well as signal pain. I mentioned earlier the intercostal muscles that lie in between each rib. Well along with those muscles there is also a dedicated intercostal nerve that runs within each intercostal muscle. So, depending on which area of the thoracic region (mid-back/ribs) that was effected one or both of these nerves will signal that interference which you recognize as pain. Because like we just talked about before when you move or breath so do your joints, muscles and nerves in the mid-back region and if there is an injury or a misalignment to these areas your body will tell you that through the nerve interference.

                As for treatment of these areas, first and foremost we need to remove the interference from the nerve(s) being effected. To do that you will need to see your local chiropractor so he or she can perform a proper chiropractic adjustment to the mid-back spinal joints or rib joints or possibly both. Now as you have the interference removed we have to treat the soft tissues as well since they are part of the joint structures and most likely were strained in the process of the injury. So, to work on that have your chiropractor perform manual therapies to stretch out, loosen and break up scar tissue that built up over time before the injury was noticed. There are many different manual therapy techniques so depending on the patient the chiropractor will choose the one that works best for that individual. A good way to relax that area that had been under quite some amount of stress is to utilize EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) as well as hot packs the combination will help to get rid of spasms in the soft tissue as well as drive blood flow to the area of injury which will provide it with oxygen and nutrients to help it heal. Lastly once the corrections in the joint structures have taken place the patient should be instructed on functional or therapeutic exercises to help stabilize and strengthen the corrected area to prevent further injury down the road.

If you are suffering from pain in the mid-back or rib cage regions then click here for a FREE consult!