Middle & Upper Back Pain
It goes OUCH when you slouch!
One of the postures we frequently notice when walking at the mall or any public place is rounded shoulders and slouched forward chest. This often appears during the high school years when we make our daily pilgrimage to that institution of higher learning. The taller kids bend forward so they can talk with their peers. Girls are becoming women and may take on a self-conscious pose. Of course being saddled with heavy back packs is of little help. So, the makings of mid to upper back pain can have its roots early on in life. That is why doing some massage can keep the muscles looser and intervene in the postural distortion.
The middle and upper back is made up of 12 vertebral bones, a cartilage cushion (disk) between each pair of vertebra and 12 sets of ribs which articulate or join the spine to form the ribcage. This area of your spine is gently curved forward (called a kyphotic curve) to allow for shock absorption during movement. The bones and joints are designed for bending forward (flexion) and straightening (extension) to the upright position; bending to either side (lateral flexion); and for twisting (rotation) to either side. When the forward curve of the thoracic spine is exaggerated, it is called kyphosis. When the curve of these bones shifts or rotates to the side, it is part of a pattern called scoliosis. The middle and upper back bones connect the neck (cervical) area above to the low back (lumbar) area below.
When our posture is slouched, bent or pressed forward we limit our breathing capacity. See “Chest and Abdomen” post for an explanation. This area is most affected by sitting at a desk/computer, carrying heavy backpacks or using “walkers” to aid our movement.
The muscles that move the upper and middle back arise from the pelvis, sacrum and low back (lumbar) region. When they become excessively tight or glued together they can restrict movement and cause pain in the back, abdomen, chest, neck and shoulder.
Muscles that arise from the upper and middle back bones attach to the neck, head, shoulder, pelvis and arm. Thus, the posture of this region can affect the posture of the entire upper body and cause pain and aches in all of them.
The spinal nerves that exit between each pair of vertebra in this region effect the lungs and respiration; heart; abdominal organs of digestion such as the pancreas and intestines. So, tension caused by postural distortion and imbalance can affect the functioning of these organs.
Massage of the muscles and connective tissues on either side of the spine can restore balance and release pain patterns caused by trigger points that can develop in the muscles over time. If your partner has an exaggerated kyphotic curve in the middle back, place one hand above the curved area and the other below the curved area and feed the tissues into the middle. You may follow that up with stretches.
Reflexology techniques can easily be applied to the spinal reflexes of the foot which are located in the inner arch of the foot. The thoracic (ribcage) area of the spine is located below the base of the big toe and extends downward toward the middle of the arch.
Essential Oils can be applied to these same Reflexology reflex centers to relax muscular tension (basil, marjoram, Aroma Seiz blend), relieve discomfort (Panaway, Deep Relief roll-on, Relieve It blends), and promote a better alignment (Valor blend). There are many other essential oils that can be used. Raindrop Technique is a wonderful way to effect change in the spine.
Spiral Synergy for the spine involves locating areas of tenderness along the spine and positioning the ribs, vertebrae and muscles in such a way as to allow the body to reflexively restore balance. Gentle positioning techniques for the upper and middle back areas can release muscular tension in the area and allow for more freedom of movement between adjacent vertebra and ribs. An instructional video focusing on these areas is available here.
For more ideas and details on these techniques, check out the instructional videos available on this website.