Thoracic and Scapula pain

Thoracic and scapular pain refer to discomfort or pain localised in the thoracic spine (upper and middle back) and the scapular region (shoulder blades). This type of pain can vary widely in intensity, duration, and specific location, and it may be caused by various factors.

  • Muscle Strain: Overuse or injury to the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine and scapulae can lead to pain. This may occur due to activities that involve repetitive motion, poor posture, or sudden movements.
  • Poor Posture: Prolonged sitting or standing with poor posture can place excessive strain on our postural muscles and ligaments of the thoracic spine and scapulae, leading to pain and discomfort from overuse in a prolonged position.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: This condition involves compression of the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet area, which can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the shoulders, arms, and hands.
  • Rib Dysfunction: Dysfunction or malalignment of the ribs in the thoracic spine can cause pain in the upper back and scapular region. This may occur due to trauma, repetitive motion, or underlying conditions such as costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum). Poor rib function can also lead to alignment issues and pain down the kinetic chain, for example, your lumbar spine or pelvis.
  • Thoracic Disc Injury: Although less common than in the lumbar spine, herniation of the discs in the thoracic spine can occur and cause pain in the upper back and scapular area, along with symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or chest.
  • Thoracic Facet Joint Dysfunction: Dysfunction or inflammation of the facet joints in the thoracic spine can cause localised pain in the upper back, which may radiate to the shoulders and scapulae. Poor movement of thoracic joints lead to reduced movement of the spine and upper limbs.
  • Scoliosis: Curvature of the spine, such as scoliosis, can cause muscle imbalances and tension in the thoracic and scapular regions, leading to pain and discomfort. Scoliosis can present as a C or S shape, leading to different heights of the shoulders and hips.
  • Referred Pain: Pain originating from other structures, such as the cervical spine (neck) or internal organs, can sometimes be felt in the thoracic spine and scapular region due to overlapping nerve pathways.

Treatment for thoracic and scapular pain depends on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. It may include rest, pain management medications, physical therapy, exercise, manual therapy techniques (such as massage or mobilisation), posture correction, and ergonomic modifications. In some cases, further evaluation and imaging studies may be necessary to determine the exact cause of the pain and guide treatment. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of thoracic and scapular pain.


How can the Physio Connex Performance Clinic physiotherapists and team help with Thoracic and Scapula pain?

Our Physiotherapists and Exercise physiologists play a crucial role in managing thoracic and scapular pain by employing a variety of techniques aimed at reducing pain, improving mobility, and restoring function. Here are several ways our healthcare team can assist individuals experiencing thoracic and scapular pain:

  • Assessment:Our Physiotherapists begin by conducting a thorough 60-minute assessment to identify the underlying cause of the pain. This may involve evaluating posture, range of motion, muscle strength, joint mobility, and identifying any contributing factors such as muscle imbalances or poor movement patterns.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques such as soft tissue massage, joint mobilisations, and manipulation can help alleviate pain, reduce muscle tension, and improve joint mobility in the thoracic spine and scapular region.
  • Exercise Prescription: Our highly skilled team prescribe specific exercises tailored to the individual’s needs to improve strength, flexibility, and stability of the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine and scapula. These exercises may include stretching, strengthening, and postural correction exercises.
  • Postural Correction: Poor posture can contribute to thoracic and scapular pain. Our healthcare team provide education and guidance on proper posture and ergonomics to reduce strain on the spine and surrounding muscles.
  • Thoracic Mobility Exercises: Targeted exercises to improve mobility and flexibility of the thoracic spine can help reduce stiffness and pain. This may include thoracic spine mobilisation exercises using foam rollers, mobility balls, or specific stretches.
  • Scapular Stabilisation Exercises: Strengthening exercises targeting the muscles that stabilise the scapula (shoulder blade) can improve scapular function, upper limb movement, and reduce pain associated with poor scapular mechanics.
  • Education and Self-management Strategies: Our healthcare team provide education on lifestyle modifications, ergonomics, and self-management strategies to empower individuals to take an active role in managing their pain and preventing recurrences.
  • Breathing Techniques: Proper breathing mechanics can play a significant role in reducing thoracic pain. Our Physiotherapists may teach diaphragmatic breathing techniques to promote relaxation and optimal function of the thoracic spine and surrounding muscles.
  • Functional Rehabilitation: Our team will integrate functional exercises and movement patterns into rehabilitation programs to help individuals return to their daily activities and sports with improved function and reduced pain.

Overall, interventions for thoracic and scapular pain are aimed at addressing the underlying causes, reducing pain and stiffness, improving mobility and strength, and empowering individuals with self-management strategies for long-term relief and prevention. The team at Physio Connex in North Wyong are here to help you get back on track.

Meet the Physio team

Find out more about our Physio Connex Physiotherapists


Meet the Exercise Physiology and Strength and Conditioning team

Find out more about our Physio Connex Exercise Physiologist & Strength and Conditioning Coach


Meet the Massage team

Find out more about our Physio Connex Massage Therapist