Thoracic strain refers to an injury of a muscle or tendon in the upper back area (between and
around the shoulder blades). It has been found that thoracic strains occur in up to 72% of
people sometime in their life to some degree. A strain can occur after a strenuous activity was
performed or when a muscle is overused or overstretched. A car accident, fall or trauma to the
area can also cause an injury. It is very common for people in jobs requiring long hours at a
desc to develop thoracic muscle strains over time. It is also common in teenagers, especially
girls, who carry heavy backpacks, sit in chairs for long hours and have poor posture when
studying.

Neck and shoulder pain is a common coexisting complaint and can either lead to or be the
result of thoracic strains. People often complain of mild longstanding discomfort that suddenly
worsens for no apparent reason. Some people have reported that an increase in work hours or
stress levels can cause a flare-up. Thoracic pain can also lead to anxiety and a lower mood,
with a loss of productivity also reported. If thoracic pain results after trauma, it might be
necessary to do further investigations into what the underlying reason might be. Your
physiotherapist will conduct a full evaluation and assess the painful area, and will discuss the
treatment options best suited to your needs. Physiotherapists work closely with other medical
professionals to ensure you receive the most appropriate care.

Symptoms of thoracic strains:
● Pain in the neck, shoulder or upper back between the shoulder blades
● Certain movements of the arms might cause pain or discomfort
● Pain after sitting for long periods
● Pain with neck or upper back movements, such as looking behind you in the car
● Pain with lifting objects
● Painful or limited shoulder movements
● Pain with deep breathing
● Symptoms in the arms: tingling (pins and needles), weakness, sensation changes
● Headaches can be present
● High stress or anxiety is common

Your physiotherapist will conduct a full evaluation of your symptoms and potential causes
thereof. Your ergonomic setup at work might also contribute to the condition and your
physiotherapist can help you to correct and improve any shortcomings. The physiotherapy
treatment plan will then be tailored to your needs and to the findings of the evaluation. Possible
treatments can include: massage, deep tissue work, dry needling, joint mobilisations, stretching,
exercise therapy and posture training.