Almost everyone has had mid-back pain at some time in their life. It’s that annoying, gnawing pain somewhere around your shoulder blade or at the top of your back where your neck begins. Sometimes it feels as though you have something poking into your back and it is hard to get really comfortable. Alot of the time, sitting, especially with a slouched posture, will make the pain worse. Usually this mid-back pain is not a serious condition but rather a simple problem caused by poor posture.
Our nature is to conserve energy, so alot of the time we sit in a slouched posture so that our muscles can turn off and we rely on the contour of the chair to hold us in position. Another common sitting mistake is an inefficient work station, causing a forward slouched position to see the computer screen or task on a desk or table that is too low. Unfortunately this causes the joints of the spine to creep into a flexed position, putting stress on the ligaments that hold the joints in place, sometimes leading to joint inflammation and pain. I use this analogy with my clients: Flex one of your fingers and leave it like that for an entire day. I can guarantee that after a few hours of having that finger flexed, you will start to have finger pain. Now how can you relieve that finger pain? I hope your answer is straighten out the finger!
Alot of the time with mid-back pain, this is the answer. We have to fix that slouched, flexed posture. But it is not as easy as it seems. Alot of us have learned this poor posture over many years of sitting at a desk (just to graduate from high school requires over 10,000 hours of sitting at a desk!). To undo all of this learned behavior, we have to start teaching new habits.
At BTF we spend time with our clients, working on proper sitting mechanics and demonstrating exercises to reeducate the postural muscles that allow proper sitting mechanics. Sometimes we take a shortcut to getting rid of a client’s pain by doing our specialized form of soft tissue therapy called movement-specific myofascial release. Some of the key areas that we work are the anterior chest and shoulder muscles. Typically a client with chronic postural dysfunction has alot of hidden tension in the anterior chest and shoulders.
If you tried the Quarter Rotation test from the video above, you should be able to get the top elbow up to 180 degrees. If the mid-back, anterior chest or shoulders are tight, you will probably feel that you cannot get all the way to 180 degrees, and you might even have pain in your mid-back or shoulder area if you try. Once this tension is relieved, the mid-back area is more responsive to postural reeducation exercises.
BTF can also use chiropractic adjustments to restore the normal joint range of motion of the mid-back joints. The chiropractic adjustments usually feel very good as they allow the mid-back joints to get back into a more neutral alignment. But the key to permanent relief of mid-back pain is postural correction. Sit with your normal relaxed posture at your desk and have a friend or co-worker evaluate your sitting posture. See the diagram below and have someone check off the boxes in the areas that you need to improve. If you have any check marks then maybe it is time you come in for a visit to BTF so we can get you realigned. FEEL BETTER – PERFORM BETTER
Dr. Chad Moreau is the President of Back to Function, a sports chiropractic office dedicated to providing elite quality care for athletes and athletic-minded clients. He was the former Strength & Conditioning/Nutrition Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and the Long Beach Ice Dogs (ECHL). For more information please visit backtofunction.com or call us at 310-534-1900.