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Unravelling Thoracic Muscle Strains and Sprains: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Unravelling Thoracic Muscle Strains and Sprains: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

The thoracic spine is a crucial component of our skeletal system, allowing us the flexibility to move and offering protection to the vital organs in our chest. 

However, like any other part of our body, it is susceptible to injuries and discomfort. Among the common issues people face related to the thoracic spine are thoracic muscle strains and sprains.

Understanding the Thoracic Spine

Before delving into the specifics of strains and sprains, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the thoracic spine. 

The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae located between the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. It is surrounded by muscles, ligaments, and facet joints that all play a role in its movement and support. 

Images of the thoracic spine can give a clearer picture of its intricate structure.

Thoracic Muscle Strain vs. Thoracic Back Sprain

Thoracic or lumbar muscle strain is caused when muscle fibers are torn. While the sprain is caused when tough bands of tissue that hold the bone together are torn from its attachment.

Thoracic Muscle Strain: 

This occurs when the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine are overstretched or torn. 

Overexertion, lifting heavy objects incorrectly, or sudden movements can cause a strain on the thoracic spine.

Thoracic Back Sprain: 

This pertains to ligaments, which are the bands connecting the vertebrae. 

When these ligaments are stretched too far or torn, it leads to a sprain. It’s similar to a strain but affects a different part of the thoracic back.

Thoracic Spine

The human spine is an intricate structure, and the thoracic region, in particular, boasts its own unique design. By examining images of the thoracic spine, one can truly appreciate the complexity and importance of this segment.

Visual Aid: 

Images of the thoracic spine can provide a detailed look at the 12 vertebrae, allowing for better comprehension of its anatomy.


Helps in pinpointing specific areas of injury or strain.

Educational Tool: 

Useful for physiotherapists and patients alike to discuss and understand injuries and recovery strategies.

Strain of the Thoracic Spine

While the thoracic spine is designed for flexibility and movement, it is not immune to injuries. Delving into what causes a strain of the thoracic spine reveals common culprits and practices that might put this region at risk.

Sudden Movements:

Quick twists or turns can overstretch the muscles, leading to a strain of the thoracic spine.

Incorrect lifting:

Lifting heavy objects without proper technique can exert undue pressure.

Sports Injuries:

High-impact or sudden jolts in sports can result in strains.

Causes of Thoracic Muscle Strain and Sprain

Understanding the root causes of thoracic muscle strain can be instrumental in both prevention and treatment. The thoracic spine, while robust, can be compromised by various factors.

Physical overexertion: 

Engaging in heavy lifting or repetitive movements can strain or sprain the muscles and ligaments in the thoracic region.

Accidents or Falls: 

Sudden impacts can lead to injuries in the thoracic spine, causing strains or sprains.

Poor Posture: 

Constantly hunching over or not maintaining a neutral spine can lead to undue stress, resulting in a thoracic back strain or sprain.


High-intensity sports or those that require sudden movements can cause a thoracic spine sprain or muscle strain.


When it comes to recognizing thoracic muscle strain, there are certain telltale signs that one should be aware of. These symptoms are the body’s way of signaling distress in the thoracic region:

Pain and discomfort:

One of the most evident symptoms is pain, which might intensify when moving or lifting objects.


The affected region might feel tight and difficult to move.


In some cases, the injured area might swell, indicating a more severe injury.

Reduced Range of Motion:

Difficulty in bending or twisting can be a sign of a thoracic back sprain or strain.

Treatment Options

Addressing thoracic muscle strain requires a comprehensive approach. By adopting the right treatments tailored to the severity and type of injury, one can pave the way for a swift and complete recovery.

Rest and Recovery: 

Giving the injured area time to heal is paramount. Avoid strenuous activities that could exacerbate the injury.

Physical Therapy: 

A therapist might provide thoracic back pain exercises in PDF format for patients to follow. These exercises aim to strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility.

Pain Management: 

For more severe pain, especially related to thoracic facet joint pain, interventions like pain relief medications or injections might be recommended. Explore our Pain Treatment and Procedures.

Cold and Heat Therapy: 

Applying ice initially can reduce swelling, while heat can relax the muscles and alleviate pain.


The health and well-being of our thoracic spine are pivotal to our overall physical functionality. As we’ve discussed, injuries like thoracic muscle strain and sprains can greatly impact our day-to-day activities. These issues, although common, should never be overlooked. 

Early detection, proper diagnosis, and timely interventions can make the recovery process smoother and more efficient. It’s essential to be informed, to understand the nuances between strains and sprains, and to be proactive in seeking professional guidance.

We, Spine and Pain Clinic of Texas, emphasize the importance of comprehensive care. Our dedicated team is committed to providing not just treatments but also education on preventive measures. Contact us to get the right treatment for you.

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