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Pain 101: Mid-Back & Rib Pain


Middle back pain consists of problems in the thoracic spine which is the middle region of the spine, along
with the rib cage which attaches into this part of the spine and wraps around to the front of the chest. 

The thoracic spine (or mid back) is a very large part of the spine, with many joints and muscles in this region- all which can be a source of pain. 

Pain 101: Intro To Mid-Back & Rib Pain

Are you experiencing pain or problems in your mid-back or ribs? Click on this video to learn more about mid-back & rib pain and steps you can take to decrease your pain.


the main types of mid-back & rib pain

Muscle Strain or Sprains

Muscle Strain or Sprains

This is a very common source of pain and injury in this part of the back.  Muscle strains and sprains commonly occur from bending down to pick something up, irritation from repetitive activity, or playing a sport. There are many muscles in this part of the spine and rib cage. When these get injured they can get inflamed and extremely tender and sore and end up causing pain with daily activities.

Postural Related

Postural Related

Postural problems are a growing trend due to increasing amount of people using computers, sitting for long periods, and commuting to work.This can lead to poor posture which causes significant stress on the muscles that run down the spine along with irritation of the joints and ligaments in this region, which can lead to significant pain.

Disc Involvement

Disc Involvement

Disc Herniation/degeneration is where the discs are meant to provide cushion and spacing between the vertebral bodies. Discs can also become injured and bulge out or herniated. Discs can also become degenerated or wear out over time. Both of these conditions can lead to pain in the low back or pain that radiates.

Arthritis and Degeneration

Arthritis and Degeneration

This is another very common source of pain, primarily seen with aging. Over time the joints in this region can become arthritic and begin to wear out causing pain and limitation with movement. In addition the vertebral bodies can begin to degenerate over time, causing decreased height which can lead to pain and possible irritation of the nerves.

Rib Dysfunction

Rib Dysfunction

Pain in the ribs can be caused by an injury, a fall, or even poor posture. This can lead to irritation of the joints where they attach in the mid-back, or the muscles running between each rib. This can lead to pain in the mid-back or pain that wraps around the side.



Ribs attach in the mid-back and wrap around to connect to the sternum in the chest area. When ribs become injured, they can lead to pain in the muscles or joints in the chest region.

what can you do about your mid-back & rib pain?

The solution to your mid-back & rib pain depends on the source of your pain and type of injury you may have sustained. The first step is to consult with your doctor and discuss their recommendations for treating the pain in your back. Your doctor may recommend restrictions on specific activities, medication and/or physical therapy. You can try the following steps now to help alleviate your pain.


It is important when you are experiencing mid-back or rib pain to limit your activity and rest so that your back can heal.

Cold Packs

Apply cold packs to your mid-back or ribs to help decrease your pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles. To prevent damage to skin and surrounding tissue, cold packs should only be applied in 15 minute intervals.


If you don’t have increased pain with movement, stretching the back muscles can be the first step in helping to loosen up your back and decrease the pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints, education on proper posture and movement to decrease pain, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and modalities such as electrical stimulation, cold/heat and ultrasound.

exercises for MID-BACK & RIB PAIN

Following are a few exercises you can perform that may help alleviate pain. Please go to LIFE+for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

What is Physical Therapy?

  • Physical therapists are trained, licensed specialists who help individuals develop, maintain, and restore maximum movement and function. Physical therapists specialize in helping restore flexibility and strength to the spine to allow you to enjoy your life, pain free. Discuss with your doctor if physical therapy is a good option for your back pain.

Treatment Approach

  • Medical research has shown physical therapy to be an effective treatment with positive long term outcomes for patients with chronic mid-back pain. A successful treatment plan consists of the following: hands-on therapy, an exercise program, posture & body mechanics training, and modalities (cold/heat, ultrasound electrical stimulation).

Hands-On Therapy

Physical therapists are trained to apply specialized, hands-on techniques that help relax tight muscles and restore joint movement in the mid-back back.

Exercise Program

A patient-specific exercise program focusing on mobility and strength will be designed to help you return to your optimal daily activity and quality of life.

Posture & Body Mechanics Training

Physical Therapists are experts at movement analysis. Your physical therapist will help you improve your posture and body mechanics for your daily activities.


Cold/heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation are used to decrease pain and relax the muscles.