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Neck Aches Caused by Tight Thoracic Mid-Back Muscles


Neck aches, soreness, and pain symptoms are not always neck-related. Tight thoracic or mid-back muscles can pull on the neck muscles causing various symptoms. Upper back tightness occurs anywhere from the neck’s base to the bottom of the rib cage. The bones in the upper area don’t move or flex as much as the neck and low back. This can lead individuals to believe there is nothing wrong with the mid-back, as there are no pain symptoms or signs of discomfort. However, individuals don’t realize how tight the muscles are, which can go on for years, causing neck issues. Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic can relieve symptoms, release, and relax tight muscles, increase circulation, and restore optimal function.

Neck Aches Caused by Tight Thoracic Mid-Back Muscles

Mid-Back Muscle Tightness

The upper and middle back is the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine has twelve small bones called vertebrae. Each vertebra on the thoracic spine is connected to a pair of ribs. The ribs wrap around the body and attach to a long, flat sternum bone. This forms the rib cage. The bones in the upper back work with the ribs to stabilize the back and protect vital organs, including the heart and lungs. The tightening and pulling eventually cause neck aches that can come out of nowhere; even when not moving and looking straight ahead, there can be persistent dull achiness or stinging sensations.


Unhealthy posture, disc problems, injuries, fractures, or other issues or conditions can cause mid-back muscle tightness.


  • Constant sitting or standing combined with unhealthy posture and being hunched over can cause the muscles to tighten, limiting mobility.

Holding Onto Stress

  • Chronic stress can cause muscle tightening, whether it is in the low back, mid-back, neck, or elsewhere.


  • Individual genetic makeup may make the body more susceptible to muscle tightness.
  • For example, individuals with a lot of muscle tone vs. individuals with less muscle tone may experience muscle tightness more often.

Adequate Hydration

  • Being properly hydrated is important for muscle and joint lubrication.
  • Water provides nutrients to contracting muscles.
  • This keeps the body loose and ready for movement.

Muscle Imbalance and Underlying Weakness

  • Individuals that tend to work one side of the body more than the other or have repeatedly been moving in a certain way for years can cause muscle imbalances and trigger points to develop.
  • If muscle tightness continues, even after stretching, it could be an underlying weakness.
  • The muscles can sometimes seize up and guard, so they feel tight when they have become chronically weak and not strong enough to meet the physical demands.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves various therapies to address the root cause fully and relieve neck aches. These include:

  • Massage therapies to break up compacted muscle tissue.
  • Remove trigger points.
  • Relax the muscles to a pliable state.
  • Perform chiropractic adjustments to realign the spine.
  • Stretching and strengthening.
  • Posture training that includes stretches/exercises.
  • Nutritional plans to help strengthen muscles.

Thoracic Tension Release


Gatt, Adrianna, et al. “Anatomy, Fascia Layers.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, Jul 25, 2022.

Liebsch, Christian, and Hans-Joachim Wilke. “How Does the Rib Cage Affect the Biomechanical Properties of the Thoracic Spine? A Systematic Literature Review.” Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology vol. 10 904539. Jun 15, 2022, doi:10.3389/fbioe.2022.904539

Maciejewska-Skrendo, Agnieszka et al. “Genetics of Muscle Stiffness, Muscle Elasticity and Explosive Strength.” Journal of human kinetics vol. 74 143-159. 31 Aug. 2020, doi:10.2478/hukin-2020-0027

Modes RJ, Lafci Fahrioglu S. Anatomy, Back. [Updated 2022 Feb 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539746/

Page, Phil. “Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 7,1 (2012): 109-19.

Petrofsky, Jerrold et al. “The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.” Clinical journal of sports medicine: official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine vol. 27,4 (2017): 329-337. doi:10.1097/JSM.0000000000000375

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The information herein on "Neck Aches Caused by Tight Thoracic Mid-Back Muscles" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

Licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN*) in Florida
Florida License RN License # RN9617241 (Control No. 3558029)
License Compact Status: Multi-State License: Authorized to Practice in 40 States*
Presently Matriculated: ICHS: MSN* FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner Program)

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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