A pain in the…neck and upper back!

Upper back and neck pain is very common, yet can be very debilitating.

When we have too many hours at the computer, worse still, a laptop it is not uncommon to develop discomfort and stiffness through the middle and upper back.  

Prolonged postures especially in sitting, or leaning forwards, can result in strain of the muscles, tendons and other soft tissue around. This causes stiffness, tightness and discomfort.

Your spine can be divided into three major parts:

  • Cervical (Neck)
  • Thoracic (Middle back), and
  • Lumbar spine (Low back)
The Thoracic spine is the middle part of the spine and can influence both the neck and low back.

Your thoracic spine runs from the base of your neck to your lower spine. It comprises of 12 individual bones called vertebrae, which play an important part in supporting your rib cage. The upper thoracic spine is structured more to allow rotation (twisting movements), while your lower thoracic spine facilitates more forward, backward and side-bending movement.

Understanding the anatomy of your thoracic spine is helpful in understanding how its movement.  Dysfunction of the thoracic spine not only results in stiffness, tightness and discomfort, but can also impact your neck, shoulders, ribs and low back.

Cycling is a common cause of middle back stiffness

The Thoracic spine tends to get stiffer the older you get. Also if you tend to be a bit de-conditioned through your abdominal and back muscles, the thoracic spine will often ‘stiffen’ to help with control through this area. It is an area runners often need help with, as do cyclists who may ‘lock’ this area when riding hills.

It is also the area where the ribs are, so any problem with your breathing – such as asthma, chronic cough, colds and flus can cause this area to tighten.

As you can see there are many potential causes of middle back stiffness. If you’ve been to Vital Core physio before for your neck or low back, we would likely have also looked at the movement of your Thoracic spine too. 

What can you do to help your thoracic spine?

Move more daily, avoid prolonged postures and try these moves to help mobility through your thoracic spine. Check out our blog on getting more exercise into your day.

Getting into the habit of loosening your spine regularly if you perform aggravating activities (from sitting at a work station to other activities such as running or cycling).

Make sure your work station is set up correctly (see below).

Getting your cough/asthma/ breathing under control if necessary.

Strengthening your spine with an individualised exercise program designed by your Vital Core physio.

Below are a few of our favourite work station exercises to loosen your middle back.


Below are some wonderful and simple exercises that can help improve the movement of your thoracic spine. They are copied from the a simple app based patient exercise system called Physiapp that we use here at Vital Core for all our patient exercise programs. With this we can individualise exercise programs for you to do at home. You can see each exercise and there is both verbal and written explanation to ensure you get the exercise correct every time.


Have a go at these. How do you feel? Can you feel your middle back moving a little more? Now do them every day and follow the guidance points above.

If you think your thoracic spine may be the underlying cause of some of your issues and would like an expert set of ears, eyes and hands to help assess, treat and motivate you on the right path to wellness, the team at Vital Core are standing by to help.

Call the clinic on 08 8331 0552 or book online today. Remember we also have virtual consultations available every day.