The thoracic spine is the section of spine between your cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). Each vertebrae of the thoracic spine has a rib connected on either side and the upper ribs connect to the sternum at the front of your body.
Due to the attachment of the rib cage to the thoracic spine there is limited movement through the upper back region. Consequently we can often get stiff and sore in the upper back. Sometimes stiffness in the thoracic spine and in the joints between the thoracic vertebrae and ribs can refer pain to other areas such as your sides, front of torso and arms.
Position of the breast on the chest wall:
Muscles of the chest wall:
Muscles of the upper back:
Some factors can increase the risk of getting stiffness and/or pain in the upper back.
- Poor standing posture
- Poor sitting posture
- Lots of time spent sitting
- Engaging in lots of anterior focused activities and exercises
- Having a large bust
The weight of a large bust puts increased force on the chest wall and can, amongst other things:
- Tighten the pectoreal muscles
- Pull the shoulders forward (which can also lead to various shoulder injuries)
- Round the top of the thoracic spine (kyphosis)
Some ways to prevent and treat pain and/or stiffness in the upper back:
- Massage of the chest and shoulders
- Physiotherapy (which may include mobilisation of the thoracic spine)
- Spikey ball/tennis ball/cricket ball self-release of pec muscles
- Stretches- focused on opening the chest and loosening the thoracic spine
- Upper back strengthening exercises
- Improving posture
- Using a lumbar roll for support when sitting
- Decreasing time spent sitting or interspersing sitting with regular standing/walking/stretching
- Modifying activities to decrease load on front of body
- Getting properly fitted for a good-quality bra
- Wearing a good quality, fitted sports bra for exercise
If you are experiencing ongoing upper back or chest pain and these steps do not help please consult a medical professional.
By Lauren Starr, Physiotherapist
Hi, my name is Lauren Starr and I’m a 28 year old physiotherapist. I’ve been working in a busy physiotherapy clinic in Melbourne’s South East for three years now and I love it! As well as assessing and treating people in rooms, I also take clinical pilates, hydrotherapy and yoga classes.
Outside of work I spend most of my time running. I have been focussing on athletics recently, but I also compete in trail and road events.
I am lucky enough to have a partner and dog who also love running so we go on lots of running adventures together in our campervan.
In my downtime I enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading and baking.