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Learn about your mid back pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your mid back pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Mid Back Pain Checker

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Your Mid Back Pain May Also be Known as:
Aches and pains in mid back
Aches and pains in mid-back
Aches and pains in midback
Aches and pains in middle back
Back pain in the middle
He hurt his mid back
He hurt his mid-back
He hurt his midback
He hurt his middle back
Hurt her mid back

Mid Back Pain Symptoms

The most common cause of mid-back pain is chronic muscle tension or irritation, often due to lifestyle factors such as sitting at a desk or poor posture. Acute muscle strain following a car accident or heavy lifting is another common cause of mid-back pain. Less common mid-back pain causes include spinal cord injury or irritation, joint inflammation, and various medical conditions. Mid-back pain symptoms due to muscle tension or strain can be treated at home with lifestyle modifications, rest, heat, stretching, or massage. However some more serious causes of mid-back pain require treatment by a medical professional. Anyone over the age of 50 with new severe mid-back pain should seek prompt medical evaluation.

Symptoms that can be associated with mid-back pain include:

Mid Back Pain Causes Overview

The most common cause of mid back pain in adults is chronic irritation to the muscles and soft tissue, typically related to prolonged sitting, poor posture, or overuse due to repetitive motion. Another common cause of mid back pain is acute muscle strain, common after minor car accidents or heavy lifting. Other less common causes of mid back pain include vertebral fracture, injury or irritation to the spinal cord, or inflammation in the joints of the spine. Some serious medical conditions can cause mid back pain, including injury to the aorta, and infection or tumor to the spinal cord.

Trauma or injury-related causes:

  • Acute Muscle Strain: An acute muscle strain in the mid back is a common cause of mid back pain symptoms. Common causes of muscle strain are car accidents, sports injuries, or heavy lifting. This pain is sharp, and you can usually pinpoint the exact moment of injury.
  • Fracture: A fracture to one of the vertebrae in the thoracic (middle) spin can cause mid back pain. Fractures to the spine typically only occurs with significant trauma, such as a fall from a significant height or a car accident at high speed. Elderly people with brittle bones (osteoporosis) are more likely to fracture the spine without being involved in significant trauma.
  • Spinal Cord Injury: The spinal cord consists of nerves traveling from the brain to the rest of the body. Injury to the spinal cord is very serious. Injury or irritation to the spinal cord in the mid-back can cause pain as well as numbness, weakness, or tingling in the trunk and legs. Severe injuries can also cause loss of control for urination and defecation. Typically, spinal cord injury occurs in the setting of trauma, often in combination with spinal fracture.

Chronic causes:

  • Chronic Tension: The most common cause of mid back pain is due to irritation or tension to the muscle and other soft tissue. Commonly, this arises from lack of strength, sitting for prolonged periods, poor posture, or wearing a backpack. This can also be a chronic overuse injury from repetitive motion. This pain is aching or dull and typically develops over time. Some patients may report their back pain is worse with stress or anxiety.
  • Joint Inflammation: There are several conditions that lead to inflammation in the joints in the spine that can lead to mid back pain. Arthritis, common in older adults, is the most common. There are several less common inherited conditions that can also cause joint inflammation and pain in younger people such as ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Spinal Cord Irritation: There are several conditions that can cause irritation of the spinal cord that may lead to mid-back pain symptoms. Irritation of the spinal cord is often accompanied by symptoms of nerve compression like numbness, weakness, or tingling in the trunk or legs.

Other causes:

  • Injury to Aorta: One of the most dangerous causes of mid back pain is a problem with the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The lining of the artery can tear, resulting in aortic dissection. Severe, sharp pain to the mid back is a symptom of aortic dissection. People with high blood pressure are at higher risk. Aortic dissection can be a life-threatening condition needing immediate evaluation.
  • Spinal Cord Infection: The spine can become infected with bacteria, which can cause localized pain in any part of the back. The infection typically spreads from another site in the body via the blood. These infections typically develop over a long period of time.
  • Cancer: Various types of cancer can spread to the spine, causing localized mid-back pain. New mid back pain in an older patient with symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, or fevers is concerning for a possible malignancy.

Top 3 Mid Back Pain Causes

  1. 1.Osteoporotic Spinal Fracture

    Disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced

    You cannot safely treat this condition on your own with over-the-counter pain relievers. Your doctor will likely order imaging and bone density tests.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    mid back pain, unintentional weight loss, spontaneous mid back pain, back pain affecting the spine, back deformity
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Mid Back Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having mid back pain.

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  2. 2.Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

    Pyelonephritis is the medical term for a kidney infection. This can arise as a result of a bladder infection that travels upstream. A kidney infection is usually bacterial in nature, and can cause pain on the side of the stomach, high fever, nausea, and blood in the urine.

    You should visit your ER. Pyelonephritis is caused by bacteria and, therefore, needs to be treated with prescription antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, pelvis pain, back pain, fever
    Symptoms that never occur with kidney infection (pyelonephritis):
    mid back pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Spine Metastases

    Bone metastases occur when tumor cells migrate from the original tumor site and cause a secondary tumor elsewhere in the body. The spine is a common location for metastases to appear and symptoms generally include pain and tingling.

    You should visit your primary care physician or oncologist, if applicable, to discuss your symptoms as soon as possible.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    back pain, lower back pain, fatigue, urinary changes, mid back pain
    Symptoms that always occur with spine metastases:
    back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with spine metastases:
    back pain from overuse, lower back pain from an injury, mid back pain from an injury, mid back pain from overuse
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Mid Back Pain Treatments and Relief

Mild mid-back pain due to chronic irritation or strain can often be treated at home with rest, lifestyle modification, heat or ice, and over the counter pain medication. However, there are some more serious causes of mid back pain symptoms that require evaluation and treatment by a physician.

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • You experience new, sharp chest pain that moves to the mid or upper back, especially if accompanied by lightheadedness or nausea : This may be a sign of injury to the aorta, which is a medical emergency.
  • You experience sudden loss of control of your bowels or bladder with or without back pain : This may be a sign of serious injury to the spinal cord.
  • You experience sudden numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs with or without back pain : This may be a sign of serious injury to the spinal cord.

Home mid-back pain treatments include:

  • Rest : If your mid-back pain is due to a muscle strain from an injury, several days of rest may help relieve mid-back pain symptoms. Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain.
  • Lifestyle modification : If your mid-back pain is related to poor posture, sitting for prolonged periods of time, or overuse due to repetitive motion, modifying your lifestyle may help. Avoid the repetitive motion, strengthen your core to improve posture, or try a standing desk!
  • Heat or Ice: If your mid back pain is due to muscle strain or irritation, heating pads or ice packs may help. Use whichever one feels best.
  • Massage or Acupuncture: If your mid-back pain is due to muscle strain or irritation, massage or acupuncture may help with pain relief. This may be particularly helpful if your back pain seems to be related to stress or anxiety.
  • Over the counter pain medication: If your mid-back pain is due to muscle strain or irritation, over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or other NSAIDs or acetaminophen may help with symptom relief.
  • Stretching or Strengthening: If your mid-back pain is related to muscle tension or strain, strengthening and strengthening may help relieve symptoms. Try a yoga class or incorporate a few stretches into your morning routine.

Medical professional mid-back pain treatments include:

  • Physical Therapy : If a doctor determines your mid-back pain is due to muscle strain or chronic irritation in the soft tissue, they may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles of the back and core, improve posture, and relieve mid-back pain.
  • Medications : If a doctor suspects your back pain is due to joint inflammation, they may prescribe medication to help with inflammation and pain. If a doctor suspects your back pain is due to infection, they may prescribe antibiotics. A doctor may also recommend prescription pain medication (opioid or non-opioid) to help manage mid-back pain symptoms.
  • Imaging : If a doctor is concerned for a fracture, a spinal infection, or a spinal tumor they may order a CT scan or an MRI to diagnose the cause of your back pain.
  • Surgery : In rare cases of mid-back pain, including serious injury to the spinal cord or injury to the aorta, surgery may be recommended as treatment. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of surgery in these cases.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Mid Back Pain

  • Q.How long has your mid-back been hurting?
  • Q.How did you hurt your mid-back?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our mid back pain symptom checker.

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Mid Back Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced mid back pain have also experienced:

    • 6% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 4% Nausea
    • 4% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced mid back pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 35% Less Than a Day
    • 27% Less Than a Week
    • 21% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced mid back pain were most often matched with:

    • 14% Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)
    • 11% Spine Metastases
    • 6% Osteoporotic Spinal Fracture

Mid Back Pain Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having mid back pain.

Take a quiz