Thoracic Sprain

Guide to a Thoracic Sprain

A thoracic sprain can be a very painful condition to manage. A thoracic sprain is a term used to describe an overstretched or torn ligament located within the thoracic portion of the back. This portion runs from the bottom of the cervical spine to the top of the lumbar region—basically the base of the neck to the bottom of the ribcage. It is no secret that the muscles of the back are quite strong, but the vertebras of the spine can be quite sensitive to force. Damage done to this area should not be taken lightly as long-term issues could develop through failure to treat the sprain properly.

Possible Causes of a Thoracic Sprain

There are many ways that the ligaments of the thoracic region can become damaged, largely because this region of the back is crucial to many different movements. Car accidents are one of the more common causes of this type of injury due to the resulting instantaneous amount of pressure applied to this area. Much in the way one can receive “whiplash”, the thoracic region can become damaged from this same type of overextending movement. It is easy to overuse this portion of the back while lifting heavy objects or by weight lifting, especially if one attempts to lift too much or fails to use a safe lifting position. The thoracic region also plays a large role when doing household chores, such as cleaning, gardening, or painting the walls or ceiling. Pushing oneself too hard or failing to use a proper technique are also ways that one could damage tissues in the thoracic region. Athletes are at particular risk of spraining the thoracic region, especially those who play contact sports such as football or rugby. Professional tennis players may also see this type of sprain.

Symptoms of Thoracic Sprain

The most prominent symptom of a thoracic sprain is pain felt in the upper-mid back area. The pain may occur when this portion of the back is moved, such as bending forward or backward or twisting from side to side. A more severe sprain may produce pain even while the back is stationary. Because a sprain involves damaged tissues, it is likely that the area could become inflamed. Inflammation results in moving blood, which contains plasma and leukocytes, to the area to aid with tissue repair. This can sometimes cause the affected area to become red, swollen, and even a little warmer than the surrounding area. The fluids that result in swelling are the most likely cause of stiffness and immobility of the muscles in this area.

Treatment Options

Conservative treatment is usually enough to treat a mild sprain. There are three basic steps involved in treating a sprain of the back, which are ice, compression, and rest. When the pain first becomes detectible, the best course of action is to stop moving and allow the muscles to relax. One should try lying on their stomach or sitting in a comfortable chair. Ice can be applied to the area using a zip-top bag wrapped in cloth (or a proper ice pack if you have one). The ice works well to reduce swelling and take the edge off the pain. The next step is to compress the area using a bandage or brace. Few people actually keep a back brace around the house, but an ace bandage works well. This can be wrapped around the back and torso to apply pressure to the back. This aids in swelling and helps to immobilize the area. The last step is to rest. In mild cases, the injury will likely heal within a week or two. One should go to great lengths to avoid using this area of the back until it has completely healed, as this will ensure that it heals fully and properly.

If the pain is quite intense or seems to persist even after using ice, compression, and resting the area, then it is probably a good idea to see a doctor about the injury. While the majority of sprains are mild, there is the possibility that a significant tear has resulted and may need to be treated by more invasive measures.