T4 Syndrome

Could T4 SYNDROME be the cause of your mid back pain?

The mid back area (thoracic) is a bit of an iffy area when it comes to research. There are a lot of general ideas with causes of symptoms but specificity gets a bit tricky. T4 Syndrome has been used as an umbrella term to explain a myriad of thoracic pain issues. Today I’m going to talk about T4 Syndrome as we understand it in the more specific sense.

The thoracic part of your spine consists of pretty large vertebra (bones) that are often quite hypo-mobile (stiff) in order to provide you with some backbone (literally). However, it is also incredibly important that they do have a moderate range of mobility otherwise other parts of your spine and body will end up taking up the load during certain movements and thus end up injured (a cause for a lot of low back and neck pain). T4 is an individual joint of the thoracic spine that resides between your shoulder blades. Due to its location and the propensity for a large amount of the population to poke their head forward, T4 stiffens up to help hold up the weight of our heavy heads (now sitting forward at an awkward angle for the spine to support). Great job T4! HOWEVER, should we continue to load this poor little joint, it will continue to thrive in its stability role whilst foregoing its mobility role, i.e we end up with an INCREDIBLY stiff T4.

What does this mean for you?

  • You are likely to feel a constant ache and discomfort in the middle of your upper back, a tightness that you just can’t quite get to.

  • You may get pain in your head, neck, upper arms.

  • You may suffer from headaches.

  • You may get intermittent pain around the scapula (shoulder blades).

  • It may feel like there’s a ‘crushing’ or tight band of pain in your mid back.

  • Pain can become sharp with quick trunk movements, deep breathing, rotation

  • You can also start to get a diffuse pain and pins, needles and numbness in the upper arm and sometimes the fingers

Why is it happening?

  • It commonly kicks in after starting a new activity or hobby (e.g. involves a lot of repetitive bending).

  • Poor posture is a massive contributor. (Do you spend a lot of time at a desk?)

  • Can be from stress/anxiety

How can you fix it?

See your physio!

  1. Improve mobility of the T4 joint by mobilisations done by your physio or chiro. (this can take a few go’s depending on how long it’s been building up for)

  2. Release knots/tightness in the muscles either side of the T4 and into the upper extremities

  3. Strengthen postural muscles to prevent it from recurring

  4. Get onto a maintenance program. You are likely someone who will continue to stiffen up in this area. Once symptoms have resolved, make sure you get a proper loosen up once a month at the very least and in between that time, as your physio for some stretches to keep the back moving and hop on your foam roller.

*Have a watch of video here to get a few ideas of ways to improve mobility in your upper back.

*Read more about the thoracic spine and how to improve mobility here and here.

Do you have a niggling ache or pain? Book in to see one of our physio's today - book online here or call us on (08) 9448 2994!

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