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Thoracic Spine Strain

The thoracic spine is the mid portion of the back between the neck and the lower back. A strain of the thoracic spine is due to stretching and tearing of the muscle fibers that support the spine. This may occur as a result of severe coughing, strenuous lifting or twisting injuries of the upper back (for example, from a fall or car/bike accident).



This usually causes increased pain with movement or deep breathing. This may take 3-6 weeks to heal.

Home Care:

  1. Rest. Avoid heavy lifting or hard work. Avoid any activity that causes pain.

  2. Some people find relief with heat (hot shower, hot bath or heating pad) and massage, while others prefer cold packs (crushed or cubed ice in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel). Try both and use the method that feels best for 20 minutes several times a day.

  3. If you have a severe cough, use a cough syrup such as Robitussin DM (containing dextromethorphan) unless another cough medicine was prescribed.

  4. You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.]

Follow Up

with your doctor, or as directed by our staff.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • A change in the type of pain: if it feels different, becomes more severe, lasts longer, or begins to spread into your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back

  • Shortness of breath or increased pain with breathing

  • Cough with dark colored sputum (phlegm) or blood

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Numbness or weakness in one or both legs or arms


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