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Upper and Middle Back Pain - Topic Overview

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This topic provides an overview of upper and middle back pain. If you have low back pain or neck pain, see the topic Low Back Pain or Neck Pain.

What is upper and middle back pain?

Upper and middle back pain can occur anywhere from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage camera.gif.

Your ribs attach to a long, flat bone in the center of the chest called the sternum and attach to and wrap around your back. If a nerve in this area is pinched, irritated, or injured, you may also feel pain in other places where the nerve travels, such as your arms, legs, chest, and belly.

The upper and middle back (called the thoracic spine) has:

  • 12 vertebrae. These bones attach to your rib cage. They make up the longest part of your back.
  • Discs camera.gif that separate each vertebra and absorb shock as you move.
  • Muscles and ligaments that hold the spine together.

See a picture of the spine camera.gif.

Upper and middle back pain is not as common as low back pain or neck pain, because the bones in this area of the back don't flex or move as much as the bones in your lower back or neck. Instead, they work with the ribs to keep the back stable and help protect vital organs, such as the heart and lungs.

What causes upper and middle back pain?

Upper and middle back pain may be caused by:

In rare cases, pain may be caused by other problems, such as gallbladder disease, cancer, or an infection.

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