The upper back is referred to as the thoracic spine.Â It is comprised of 12 vertebrae, numbered T1 through T12.Â The neck is referred to as the cervical spine and is comprised of 7 bones and the low back is referred to as the lumbar spine and is comprised of 5 bones.Â The upper back, or thoracic spine, does not degenerate or become symptomatic as commonly as the neck and low back.Â Part of the reason is that the ribs help to stabilize and support the thoracic spine. There is less motion and therefore less wear and tear on the thoracic spine as opposed to the neck or low back.
A common complaint is pain in between the shoulder blades.Â This is often radiating or originating from the neck. Degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and facet arthropathy of the cervical spine is the most common underlying cause of neck pain and pain that radiates into the upper back.
In younger patients, such as teenagers or young adults, a wedging or collapse of the anterior aspect of the thoracic vertebrae and disc can create an exaggerated forward flexed deformity known as Scheumerman’s kyphosis. This can often result in upper back pain.