Twelve sets of ribs combine at the front of the breastbone (sternum) and in the back at each of the thoracic spine vertebrae to form the “rib cage.” Since the structure encloses the body’s heart and lungs, the rib cage has three essential functions: protection, respiration, and support. In many cases, mid-back injuries accompany back rib pain. Since the rib cage connects to the spine, experiencing pain in one area may produce significant pain in a different area. People often report the presence of a dull, sharp, or burning sensation when describing back rib pain. But in more severe cases, patients may discover a limited range of motion and extreme discomfort when they cough, sneeze or laugh.
Middle back pain typically originates from issues found within the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine (or mid-back) makes up an enormous part of the spine with many joints and muscles – all of which can generate back rib pain.
The most common explanation for back rib pain can be attributed to a pulled muscle or bruised ribs. Other prevalent causes can range from a combination of broken or fractured ribs, swollen rib cartilage injuries to the chest, osteoporosis, muscle spasms, and inflammation surrounding the lining of the lungs. Furthermore, other serious spinal conditions may be the underlying source of back rib pain.
Muscle strains or sprains are frequent culprits of a patient’s back rib pain. Muscle strains and sprains commonly arise from awkwardly jerking or bending the spine, irritation from repetitive activity, or traumatic injuries such as motor vehicle accidents. When injured, these muscles become inflamed, tender and sore, which leads to pain with simple daily activities.
When the ribs fail to move (or move incorrectly), board-certified spine specialists may diagnose patients with a condition called rib dysfunction. Common symptoms associated with rib dysfunctions include tenderness and pain in the ribs, along with difficulty breathing. The source of pain is usually located along the line of a specific rib or at a rib’s junction. Pain originating from the ribs can result from an injury, a fall, or even poor posture.
The sheer volume of people using computers and sitting for long periods at work attribute to the growing number of reported postural problems. These behaviors can lead to poor posture, which places significant stress on the muscles that run through the spine. This irritation of the joints and ligaments in this region can subsequently produce various degrees of back rib pain.
A herniated disc can pain to manifest in the lower back that radiates throughout the entire body. Spinal discs normally act as shock absorbers by providing cushion and spacing between the vertebral bodies. But over time, these discs can degenerate, become injured and bulge out (herniate). As a result, the viscous material from the interior of the disc will ooze into the spinal canal, thereby producing intense pain from irritating sensitive nerves on one side of the body. Signs and symptoms of herniated discs depend on the location in the spine and whether the disc presses against a nerve. The most prevalent symptoms a patient will experience include pain in the buttocks, thigh, and calf, numbness or tingling from the affected nerves, muscle weakness, issues with stability and difficulty lifting and holding items.
Arthritis of the spine is a type of osteoarthritis, which is the breakdown of bone in weight-bearing joints and disc cartilage. Facet joints help connect vertebrae in the back of the spine and allow body movement. As the body undergoes the normal aging process, the facet joints tend to thicken and harden, which effectively diminishes elasticity. Consequently, the joints in this region will slowly wear out, thereby causing pain and limiting movement.
The degeneration of the disc tissue also compels discs to become more susceptible to rupturing (herniated disc). This development can generate pain in the affected area and along the nerves connected to the spinal cord.
While the exact cause of costochondritis remains unknown, several conditions may influence this condition including trauma to the chest, strenuous exercise and heavy lifting, viruses or respiratory conditions causing joint inflammation, some types of arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis), and tumors found in the costosternal joint region. While anyone has the potential to develop this condition, costochondritis typically affects women and people over age 40. A patient’s doctor can diagnose costochondritis by performing a physical examination after reviewing symptoms and family medical history. Next, a patient’s doctor may order X-rays and blood tests to rule out other conditions causing painful symptoms. Most cases of costochondritis can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Doctors typically recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen for mild to moderate pain. In addition, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes such as avoid high-intensity exercising. Daily stretching can also help relieve associated back rib pain.
The solution to a patient’s back rib pain depends on the source of the pain, as well as the injury a patient sustained. The first step on the road to recovery involves consulting with a board-certified doctor for effective treatment approaches. Depending on the severity of the back rib pain, a patient’s spine doctor may recommend physical activity restrictions, lifestyle changes, medication, and physical therapy. For more intense pain, a board-certified spine expert may suggest surgical inversion after exhausting all non-invasive methods. Moreover, NJSS offers virtual telehealth services, using high-definition video and audio technology. Our telemedicine service provides patients real‐time, two‐way communication via secure online virtual sessions.
Regardless of the source, the team at New Jersey Spine Specialists can treat a patient’s back pain rib with precision and compassion. New Jersey Spine Specialist’s doctors hold a successful history in treating countless patients from all over New Jersey for a broad array of back-related issues, including back rib pain. With convenient locations at Summit’s Overlook Hospital and Montclair’s Mountainside Hospital, New Jersey Spine Specialist’s board-certified spine surgeons provide patients with treatment tailored to individual needs. If you begin to notice back rib pain, don’t let your quality of life dwindle any longer. Come in for a consultation with New Jersey’s leading spine doctors, and learn about what minimally invasive treatment options may be best for you. To find out more, give us a call at (908) 738-1679 today!.
“I am pain free, walking and well on my way to recovery thanks to the help of New Jersey Spine Specialists” —Robert K
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