Mid Back Pain

My Personal Experience with Mid Back Pain

Severe mid back pain (pain in the middle of the back) can strike suddenly and be agonizing. I know because I’ve experienced it myself!

It was the morning after taking an awkward hit in hockey. I woke up with the left side of my mid back in such terrible spasm that breathing was difficult. My chest felt constricted, and even the slightest movements were incredibly painful. I could hardly roll out of bed and literally had to crawl for help- sound kind of familiar? I’ve encountered many patients who were shocked by similar pain. In fact, some severe cases can land a person in the ER thinking they’re experiencing a heart attack. My personal experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise however. This is because I now have a better understanding of what causes it and how to help correct it. I have found the best approach to treatment to include chiropractic care.

What Causes Pain in the Mid Back?

I can’t recall a case of mid back pain that didn’t have some level of muscular involvement. Typically however, muscular spasm in the mid back is a reaction or RESULT of a deeper issue. In my experience, mid back pain (usually muscle spasm) is most commonly caused by physical trauma. This might be due to an accident, repetitive poor posture, emotional/mental stress.

Rib misalignment is often the culprit of mid-back pain

1. Rib misalignment

(aka rib head subluxation). The ribs wrap around the chest and connect to the spine forming a joint. Injuries, muscle weakness, poor postures, incorrect lifting, or some combination can cause the rib to slide slightly backwards and slightly inwards towards the spine. It will usually feel like a severe muscular ‘knot’ approximately 2 inches to the left or right of the spine, close to the shoulder blade. The muscles of the back spasm and tighten to protect the misalignment and a person can experience any of the following: difficulty breathing, radiating pain along the affected rib to the front of the chest, pain in the front of the chest, pain into the neck, and radiating pain/tingling/numbness down the arm or into the hand. This pain can be severe and often people will end up rushing to the hospital ER because they are convinced they are having a heart attack or some other cardiac event.


The middle of the back itself can become misaligned, causing pain
The low back and pelvis are the foundation of the spine- when they become misaligned they can cause the mid back to also become misaligned, causing pain. The neck can cause the same.

2. Spinal misalignment of the Mid Back

The spine itself can become misaligned exactly where it hurts, irritating muscles, nerves, and ligaments in that area.The pelvis and low back are the foundation of your spine. When it becomes misaligned, it can create misalignment of the mid back. The neck can cause the same.

3. Spinal misalignment of the Neck or Low Back

Often a pain in the mid back is a compensation for misalignment of the low back and pelvis, or in the neck. These areas can become misaligned and the mid back acts like a ‘kinking point’ for these issues. The spine is connected, and in this case the trouble with the mid back won’t be relieved until the true cause of the problem elsewhere is corrected.

4. Something else

On the very rare occasion a patient has an issue with their mid back that isn’t caused by spinal or rib misalignment. This could be something like a past injury that resulted in a spinal fracture, arthritis, or kidney or other internal organ or digestive issue radiating to the back, for example. In the elderly it can also be shingles. This is usually not the issue, however.

What can be done about it?

  1. Determine the Cause Using Traditional and Contemporary Chiropractic Analysis. In the first 3 cases where a spinal or rib misalignment is the issue, careful analysis must be used to find the issue. This is done using traditional hands-on ‘motion palpation’ examination. In addition, at our clinic we will use spinal video xray to observe spinal motion in the upper thoracic spine. This examination can also help rule out other more serious pathology. Based on the severity of the issue, we will recommend a course of care to help you recover.
  2. Undergo a course of chiropractic care with proactive exercises and soft tissue work. Once the patient is ready, it is important to strengthen, mobilize and reinforce the injured area with exercise. As an individual gets stronger we will recommend simple strengthening and flexibility exercises for the mid back to help maintain alignment. This is because maintenance exercise helps to maintain the progress made. Therapy like acupuncture and massage typically work hand-in-hand with chiropractic care also tends to speed up results.
  3. Maintain your progress with intermittent chiropractic checkups and exercises. Because of the stresses of our modern society, the mid-back is a chronically weak area in most people. This means that it needs ongoing attention through exercise and chiropractic checkups.


Who do you know that needs help? There is hope- contact us today!