What structures lead to upper back muscle spasm?
The upper back or thoracic spine can be seen as the main train station, where all the major lines connect. The neck, shoulders, lower back and hips can all influence or be influenced by pain and imbalance of the upper back muscles.
If you travel through the layers of the upper back muscles you will find:
- Lattisimus dorsi
- Rhomboid major and minor
- Serratus posterior
- Splenius cervicis
- Longissimus thoracis
- Splenius thoracis
- Semispinalis thoracis
- and finally multifidus
- intercostal muscles attach between the ribs
Its a connected network
All these muscles have a left and right counterpart and together work in harmony to move your upper back to turn and look behind you or lift and elongate the body for good posture. Unfortunately, poor posture leads to lazy, elongated muscles in the upper back that are more comfortable slouching forward over your steering wheel, phone or laptop.
We have 12 thoracic vertebrae, with 12 sets of ribs on either side. This makes the thoracic spine less flexible that the neck and lower back. But rightly so, because it protects such precious cargo. The lungs and heart fill most of the chest cavity. Poor posture can influence your lung capacity, quality of your breath and if you have ever experienced an anxiety attack, you know that the ease you breathe with can influence your state of mind. So I’ll argue that by affecting the quality of your breath, upper back muscle spasm can break down your quality of life, pain intensity set aside. Your liver, on the right, and stomach, on the left are located under the lowest ribs on either side.
Just like the neck and back, the thoracic spine has discs in between the vertebrae. Because of the ribs and immobility, the risk of injuring a disc is much less than the neck or lower back, but a rare slipped thoracic disc can give you quite intense upper back muscle spasms.
Nerve roots are found between the bones and supply the muscles and skin of the upper back and chest.