Why Back Massages Will Never Eliminate Mid Back Pain

Back pain – whether it be mid back pain, lower back pain or shoulder and neck pain – makes life miserable. Even simple activities like sitting at a computer, watching a movie or just hanging out with friends lose their allure when you’re nursing sore, aching muscles. Middle back pain is quickly becoming a common complaint, almost as common as lower back pain.

Unfortunately, as many tension-relieving massages as you get on your mid back and shoulders, they won’t give you lasting relief, and I’ll tell you why. But first, let’s look at some of the causes of mid back pain.

What Causes Mid Back Pain?

Of course, there are several potential causes of mid back pain. Those who have been in any sort of major accident, such as a car accident or skiing incident (think tree meets human, up close and personal), are likely to have structural imbalances that result in mid back pain. But, those aren’t the only potential instigators.

Computers are a prime culprit in causing mid back pain because of the slouched, head-forward posture that most computer users adopt. Your head weighs around 8 pounds. When you shift it forward of the center line, all of the muscles along your upper and mid back contract to support the weight of your head. Try it now…look down at your knees and feet. Feel the strain in your back increase? That’s what happens eight (or ten, or twelve) hours a day when you sit in front of a computer.

Another surprising instigator of mid back pain is the ubiquitous smart phone. Now days, not only are we bent fervently over our computers, we’re also staring down at our iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and who knows what other life-controlling devices. Again, this shifts the head forward of the mid-line of your body, causing mid back tension and pain.

Some sports can also create additional tension and pain in the mid back, such as rowing, which requires heavy use of the large muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Also, those who have limited spinal mobility (i.e. the joints in between their vertebra don’t move very well) in their mid back will often experience mid back stiffness and pain, especially later in life as tissue loses its youthful elasticity. This kind of stiffness can be due to mild scoliosis or simply because you haven’t ever spent time working on mid back mobility.

Middle Back Pain Solutions

As good as they feel, massages on the mid back, shoulders and neck will never completely cure mid back pain. They may temporarily alleviate the discomfort, but as soon as you sit down in front of that computer or earnestly engage with your juicy text message conversation, your head moves forward and the strain comes back.

To understand the root cause of mid back pain, it’s important to know that there are two kinds of muscle tension: those muscles that are locked long and those muscles that are locked short. When it comes to mid back pain, the muscles that are locked long are the ones on the back of your body, where you feel the pain. Stretching these muscles won’t give you any relief because they’re already stretched – that’s why they hurt. To relieve the mid back pain, you have to address the muscles that are locked short – those on the front of your shoulders, like your pectorals and biceps. These muscles pull the shoulders forward, rounding the back and putting strain on your mid back muscles. Once the tension in the front of your body is released, the mid back pain will dissipate.


  1. Cynthia says

    As the nature of my job, I do experienced mild pain because I sit almost for a day. I have noticed that the pain connect into my head and it start of having head ache.

    • Martin Christiansen says

      I have this type of back pain. My shoulders/chest shear forward and it gets me right under my shoulder blades.

      I've been erroneously trying to stretch the affected area itself (think long fist warm ups). Now I have great range of motion, with the same pain. Just saw a new chiropractor yesterday who recommended *deltoid streches (mainly anterior)*. I remember these helped a lot when I was doing proper physical therapy a couple years back.

      Everyone varies though and it would probably be best to just bring that up to your physical therapist to better help them work with you.

  2. W.E. says

    This article is ambiguous at best. Nobody ever said that massage would eliminate back pain. But, I can tell you from personal experience that massage therapy SIGNIFICANTLY reduces back pain. Anyone who is looking for a quick fix for back pain is not going to find it. So many people want to have someone else “fix” the pain. It doesn’t work that way. Each person IS GOING TO HAVE TO GET MASSAGE THERAPY, participate in stretching all muscles, tendons, ligaments in the body, work to strengthen the muscles and eat good nutritious foods.

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