Upper back pain

The thoracic spine is located at the back of the chest (the thorax), mostly between the shoulder blades, and includes many bone and tissue structures.

Most of the time, upper back pain is not serious, so don’t worry – your osteopath has got your back!

Book an osteo appointment to talk about your upper back pain

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Common conditions affecting the upper back
Introduction

Experiencing pain or discomfort somewhere in the upper back is very common. It affects people of all age ranges and genders but is particularly common in the child to adolescent range and is more common in females than males.

Your osteo might:

  • Work on joint mobility
  • Work on muscular tension, inflammation and nerve irritation
  • Investigate blood supply and drainage to and from the spine and pelvis
  • Provide advice on your ergonomic environment – e.g. your computer workstation
  • Provide guidance on diet, hydration and exercise

Most of the time upper back pain is not serious. Your osteopath will listen as you tell them about your pain and they put you at the centre of your management plan.

Patient resources

WATCH Sonia’s journey with osteopathy and her thoracic back pain:

Sonia’s journey

Try this thoracic spine extension exercise to relieve stiffness and pain (with thanks to the Sports and Spinal Group Melbourne):

What the evidence says

Clinical research suggests that manual therapy on the upper back may relieve pain for adults with upper back pain not caused by a serious health condition. Manipulation techniques and soft tissue therapy have helped some patients. Further research has supported using manual therapy in combination with exercises and/ or needling therapy.

The following studies support the use of osteopathic therapies in the management of thoracic back pain:

  • Systematic reviews by Huisman (2013) and Southerst (2015) found that manual therapies (including manipulation and soft tissue therapy), either alone or in conjunction with exercises and/ or needling therapy, have helped some patients soon after treatment for thoracic back pain.
  • Manual therapy on the upper back may relieve pain for adults with upper back pain. Manipulation techniques have helped some adults soon after treatment (Southerst et al 2015).
  • Manual therapy, needling and clinical exercise may relieve upper back pain in adults. Manipulation techniques and soft tissue approaches have helped some patients (Southerst et al 2015).

References

Huisman, PA., et al ‘The effect of thoracic spine manipulation on pain and disability in patients with non-specific neck pain: a systematic review’, Disability and Rehabilitation (2013); 35 (20)

Southerst, D., et al ‘The effectiveness of noninvasive interventions for musculoskeletal thoracic spine and chest wall pain: a systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) collaboration, J Manipulative Physiol Ther (2015) Sept; 38 (7)

Southerst, D., et al ‘The effectiveness of noninvasive interventions for musculoskeletal thoracic spine and chest wall pain: a systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) collaboration, J Manipulative Physiol Ther (2015) Sept; 38 (7)