When it comes to back pain, the lower back generally takes the spotlight. However, the pain in the upper and middle back, known as the thoracic spine, is generally relegated to the sidelines. Not much is said or written about it. Just like lower back pain, thoracic back pain can be debilitating as well.
Given its location, it provides the body with stability and protects vital organs in the chest like the heart and lungs. The most common cause of thoracic back pain is muscle tension that occurs due to poor posture.
In older adults, arthritis and compression fractures of the vertebrae due to osteoporosis can cause middle and upper back pain. Other causes may include herniated or degenerated discs or problems with the joints that attach the ribs to the thoracic vertebra. Before starting a new fitness routine or medication, it is advisable to seek your doctor’s or an expert’s guidance.
Exercises for thoracic back pain
Rowing: This is one of the best exercises for strengthening the upper back. It can be done using resistance tubes or a rowing machine. One can use dumbbells or bottles to do bent-over row. Also, if the lower back is weak, one can sit on a chair instead of doing bent over. Start with light weights and gradually increase to 10-15 reps (two-three sets). If pain aggravates stop and consult a doctor.
Upper back stretch: Hold a window parapet or rod and stretch the upper back by creating a hunch. Hold for five counts and repeat five times.
Scapular retraction: Link your fingers behind your back and squeeze shoulder blades together. Stay upright, slowly rise and straighten your arms. Hold for five counts, repeat five times and gradually increase the range. One can use support to expand the range of the stretch.
Thoracic arch: Sit on a low back-rest chair with arms clasped behind your head. Gently arch your back until a stretch is felt. Hold for five counts and repeat five times.
(The writer is ACSM and Yoga Alliance certified personal and group trainer)