If you have injured the muscles or tendons that attach to the upper part of your back behind your chest, this injury is called a thoracic strain, thoracic sprain, or mid-back strain. The cause of thoracic strain varies. Sprains and strains to the thoracic region of the back are very common because the upper back supports such a great amount the body’s entire weight and maintains posture and stability while we walk, run, sit, or stand. The upper back muscles are responsible for keeping your body up straight and prevent slouching, from the lower back up to your head. The multitude of small muscles in our back, as well as the ligaments that connect these muscles to our bones, comprise a vast framework of muscles, ligaments, and bones that together support the spinal cord and allow for dynamic movements and flexibility. The small size of the muscles in the upper back makes them vulnerable to injuries, which is another reason why sprains and strains are such a common occurrence.

A less severe injury involves pulling a muscle or tendon without tearing it. A more severe injury involves tearing (rupturing) a muscle or tendon. With less severe injuries, there may be little loss of strength. Sometimes, there are breaks (fractures) in the bones to which the muscles are attached. These fractures are rare unless there was a direct hit (trauma) or you have weak bones due to osteoporosis or age. Longstanding strains may be caused by overuse or improper form during certain movements. Obesity can also increase your risk for back injuries. Sudden strains may occur due to injury or not warming up properly before exercise. Often, there is no obvious cause for a thoracic strain.

Common Symptoms

  • Spasm, swelling, loss in range of motion
  • Mid-back pain that radiates to neck and back
  • Difficulty looking over shoulder with driving
  • Pain when taking

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