The spine has three areas: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar in the back, encased with muscles, tissues, ligaments, and joints that help protect the spinal cord from injuries. With the spinal cord being part of the central nervous system, this long cord has many nerve roots that are spread all over the body and help function each section of the body. When the back muscles become damaged or injured in the thoracic region of the spine, it can cause painful symptoms and other issues that correspond with the thoracic spine. Today’s article will look at the thoracic spine, how back pain in the upper-mid section of the back, and how visceral referred pain affects the thoracic region in the body. We refer patients to certified, skilled providers specializing in osteopathic and chiropractic treatments that help those suffering from chest pains and thoracic back pain. We also guide our patients by referring to our associated medical providers based on their examination when it’s appropriate. We find that education is critical for asking insightful questions to our providers. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC provides this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer
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The Thoracic Spine
Have you been experiencing herniation in the upper-mid section of your back? Have you felt chest pain occur frequently? Do your back muscles feel stiff or constantly ache even after you stretch? All these symptoms are signs that affect the thoracic region of the spine. Research studies have defined the three spinal areas: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar help keep the upper half of the body upright. The thoracic area of the spine has added support from the rib cage and allows the body to rotate and flex the upper body. The thoracic region of the spine is also the first curvature that is tight enough to protect the vital organs and loose enough to allow respiratory movement in the body. Additional research studies have also mentioned that the thoracic segments in the spine are susceptible to injuries that can affect the back entirely. The thoracic segments can succumb to structural alterations, disc herniation, and even trauma in the spine from environmental factors like lifting or carrying heavy objects, muscle strain, and forceful impact.
How Thoracic Pain Affect The Body
When the thoracic region of the spine begins to suffer from environmental factors or traumatic events, it can affect the body and aggravate the nerves that encase the spinal column. Research studies have found that when the thoracic spine has succumbed to injuries, it can affect the upper half of the body. Structural changes in the thoracic T 1 through 3 regions of the spine can cause the cervical area to develop neck pain. This causes restricted segmental mobility in the cervical and thoracic regions of the spine. Another research study has mentioned that individuals suffering from thoracic pain will often complain about paravertebral pain aggravated by prolonged standing, hyperextension, and even hyper rotation in the thoracic spinal column. When this happens, it can cause discomfort to the individual and limit their range of motion since their muscles are stiff. Thoracic pain can even affect the corresponding muscles connected to the body’s internal organs.
Referred Pain Affect The Thoracic Spine-Video
Have you felt muscle stiffness in your upper-middle back? Have you been dealing with neck or chest pain? Have inflammatory issues affecting your esophagus? Many of these are signs and symptoms of visceral referred pain affecting the thoracic region of the spine. The video above explains how visceral referred pain can affect the thoracic spine and the corresponding muscle and organs in the area. Research studies have defined pain as damaged nociceptive sensory nerves that affect the peripheral tissues in the face. The broken nerve roots can affect one portion of the body but also a different section of the body. Additional research studies have also found that visceral pain affecting the thoracic regions of the spine can impact the cardiovascular system. This is due to hypertension caused by chronic stress from environmental factors.
Visceral Referred Pain Affecting The Thoracic Region
Research studies have noticed that thoracic spinal pain can become a common site for inflammation, degenerative discs, and other issues contributing to pain and disability in the spine. Visceral pain is a complex disorder that can cause the surrounding muscles and organs in the thoracic region to be compromised. When the body is suffering from visceral referred pain, the thoracic region of the spine will also begin to suffer. Additional research studies have found that visceral referred pain that affects the thoracic neurons will also affect the esophageal and cardiac input to the cardiovascular and gut systems. When the affected thoracic neurons begin to cause heart and esophageal problems, these two organs become hypersensitive due to noxious stimulation.
The spine has three areas: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar, which help keep the body upright and is encased with muscles, tissues, and ligaments that protect the spinal cord from injuries. Injuries that affect the thoracic regions of the back can cause problems to the corresponding muscles and the internal organs, especially in the gut and cardiovascular systems. These organs become hyper-sensitive and can make the body develop hypertension and other issues that can make the body dysfunctional. When individuals realize that their upper-middle back pain in the thoracic region can affect their cardiovascular system, they can find ways to treat their back pain and prevent cardiovascular issues from forming.
Briggs, Andrew M, et al. “Thoracic Spine Pain in the General Population: Prevalence, Incidence and Associated Factors in Children, Adolescents and Adults. A Systematic Review.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, BioMed Central, 29 June 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720379/.
Brumovsky, P R, and G F Gebhart. “Visceral Organ Cross-Sensitization – an Integrated Perspective.” Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic & Clinical, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 Feb. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818077/.
Gkasdaris, Grigorios, et al. “Clinical Anatomy and Significance of the Thoracic Intervertebral Foramen: A Cadaveric Study and Review of the Literature.” Journal of Craniovertebral Junction & Spine, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5111324/.
Joshi, Shriya, et al. “Thoracic Posture and Mobility in Mechanical Neck Pain Population: A Review of the Literature.” Asian Spine Journal, Korean Society of Spine Surgery, 3 June 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6773982/.
Murray, Greg M. “Guest Editorial: Referred Pain.” Journal of Applied Oral Science : Revista FOB, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru Da Universidade De São Paulo, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4327510/.
van Kleef , Maarten, et al. “10. Thoracic Pain.” Pain Practice : the Official Journal of World Institute of Pain, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20492577/.
Ward, John, et al. “Immediate Effects of Upper Thoracic Spine Manipulation on Hypertensive Individuals.” The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, Maney Publishing, Feb. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459143/.
Waxenbaum, Joshua A, et al. “Anatomy, Back, Thoracic Vertebrae – Statpearls – NCBI Bookshelf.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 12 Aug. 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459153/.
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The information herein on "A Look At Thoracic Back Pain & Viscersosomatic Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*
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