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The Tee on Thoracic Pain

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

This weekend, we went out to the golf course trying to make the most out of the "last weekend of good weather" here in Michigan. And it was just perfect! Warm, sunny and with a nice breeze. We couldn't have asked for anything better!

Of course, per our usual, we made some new friends while we were there (while keeping safe and socially distant). Like with any new introduction and the normal small talk it was found out that I am a chiropractor. When that happens, the questions usually start almost immediately. I honestly can't get enough of it! If you ever want to get me talking just ask me about your injury, I can and will go on forever. I love what I do and I love helping people feel their best!

Our conversation lead to what we all did for a living; As soon as I said "I am a chiropractor". the immediate response was, "Oh, so let me ask you this?". No one ever found out what my spouse did for a living, sorry honey.

Our new friend explained that he was having upper back pain, mostly right sided and was made worse with his golf swing or if he was reaching with his right arm. He said that the pain was occasionally sharp, but burning and achy most of the time. He also told me he had been in physical therapy for a few weeks now, and had not seen any change. He reported no recent history of trauma (meaning he didn't have a direct injury to that area that started his symptoms). So here's the tee.

The thoracic spine (aka upper back) is one of the most neglected areas when it comes to treatment of back pain. It is meant to be an area of fluid motion. However, we tend to use and abuse that area with chronic computer/phone usage, jobs that require being bent or stooped over (like tattoo artists, dental hygienists, hair stylists, accountants) or with most sports (think about the golf swing, swinging a bat or hitting a volleyball).

All of these motions put unequal strain on the muscles of our upper back, over time this will lead to chronic muscle imbalances, lock up the thoracic spine and cause pain. Mid-back immobility symptoms usually present themselves as burning between the shoulder blades, deep muscle tension, poor posture, pain with rotation or arm motion, shoulder blade pain, rib pain, pain with taking a deep breath, and more. It also restricts normal range of motion, meaning you won't be able to perform optimally when engaging in your favorite activities, like golf.

Prevention is of course key, but if this information is new to you and you're already experiencing symptoms, worry not.

For someone like our new friend here (that I am unable to provide immediate treatment for) my go to is foam rolling. It's inexpensive (5$ at Five Below), safe, takes less that 10 mins and can be done at home.

To foam roll:

1. Lay on the ground

2. Place the foam roller under your mid-back horizontally

3. Engage your core

4. Slightly tuck your chin to protect your neck

5. Slowly arch your back

6. Return to beginning position, move the roller down little by little (by using your legs) and repeat.

Additionally, I most ardently advised him to find a reputable chiropractor in his area and seek treatment.

Because...of course, getting your thoracic spine adjusted will improve mobility more quickly, restore normal function to the restricted joints, relax the tight musculature and aid in correcting the imbalances.

In our office I use many adjusting methods along with instrument assisted muscle release technique to help break up old knots/adhesions and recommend an individualized home care plan based upon your body posture, activities and personal needs.

The best thing is that this type of issue can typically be corrected with conservative care and with just a few office visits (of course depending on the severity and longevity of the problem).

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