A thoracic strain, which is sometimes called a mid-back strain, is an injury to the muscles or tendons that attach to the upper part of your back behind your chest. This type of injury occurs when a muscle is overstretched or overloaded.
Thoracic strains can range from mild to severe. Mild strains may involve stretching a muscle or tendon without tearing it. These injuries may heal in 1–2 weeks. More severe strains involve tearing of muscle fibers or tendons. These will cause more pain and may take 6–8 weeks to heal.
This condition may be caused by:
- An injury in which a sudden force is placed on the muscle.
- Exercising without properly warming up.
- Overuse of the muscle.
- Improper form during certain movements.
- Other injuries that surround or cause stress on the mid-back, causing a strain on the muscles.
In some cases, the cause may not be known.
This injury is more common in:
- People with obesity.
The main symptom of this condition is pain, especially with movement. Other symptoms include:
This condition may be diagnosed with a physical exam. X-rays may be taken to check for a fracture.
This condition may be treated with:
- Resting and icing the injured area.
- Physical therapy. This will involve doing stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Medicines for pain and inflammation.
HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS
- Rest as needed. Follow instructions from your health care provider about any restrictions on activity.
- If directed, apply ice to the injured area:
- Put ice in a plastic bag.
- Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
- Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times per day.
- Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
- Begin doing exercises as told by your health care provider or physical therapist.
- Always warm up properly before physical activity or sports.
- Bend your knees before you lift heavy objects.
- Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.
SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:
- Your pain is not helped by medicine.
- Your pain, bruising, or swelling is getting worse.
- You have a fever.
SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:
- You have shortness of breath.
- You have chest pain.
- You develop numbness or weakness in your legs.
- You have involuntary loss of urine (urinary incontinence).
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.
Document Released: 03/09/2005 Document Revised: 09/07/2016 Document Reviewed: 02/11/2016
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