Thoracic/Upper Back Pain

Thoracic/Upper Back Pain

Thoracic and upper back pain refers to any pain and/or dysfunction of the thoracic section of the spine. It can be anything from stiffness in the upper back to pain when taking a deep breath.

What is the Cause?

The thoracic part of the spine is structurally very different to the lumbar and cervical parts of the spine. It is designed to be very stable and strong providing protection for the vital organs. . The fact that the ribs also connect into the thoracic spine provides more rigidity. This predisposes the thoracic spine to stiffness. Therefore the most common cause of upper back pain is joint dysfunction.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Upper back pain while breathing
  • Muscle spasm
  • Stabbing pain
  • Pain radiating out to the ribs
  • Pain in the shoulders

What Can We Do About It?

Posture plays a huge part in decreasing pain in the upper back. The Physiotherapist’s at Elite Spinal will assess your posture and advise you in how to make the appropriate changes.

The therapist will also use manual therapy techniques to decrease the stiffness through out the thoracic spine and ensure it is appropriately aligned.

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction is a term given to the abnormal movement of the sacroiliac joints. It involves either hyper mobility (decreased movement) or hypo mobility (increased movement) of the joints. It can also involve inflammation of the joints, which is referred to as sacrolitis.

What is the Cause?

This condition is caused by anything that causes the ligaments surrounding the sacro iliac joint to become either too loose (hyper mobile) or too tight (hypo mobile). Some conditions that can cause this are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Damage to the ligaments
  • Issues with the near by joints

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Back Pain
  • Buttock Pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Increased pain when standing on one leg

What Can We Do About It?

The first thing that needs to be done when suffering sacroiliac joint dysfunction is for the physiotherapist to do a thorough assessment to determine what is causing the dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint. Once the cause is determined the Physiotherapist at Elite Spinal Physiotherapy can perform the appropriate treatment. This will generally involve improving spinal alignment, soft tissue therapy and a tailored exercise program.

Recent Posts


Natural Anti-inflammatories

Natural Anti-inflammatories

In an acute episode of back or neck pain drug based anti-inflammatories may be necessary however they have a few side effects so  avoiding them where possible is a good idea. This is where natural anti-inflammatories can be very useful.


Curcumin has a long history in Ayuvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory conditions. Curcumin is the orange pigment in turmeric and is a potent antioxidant that offers numerous health benefits including cardiovascular function, joint health and painting the bodies normal inflammatory response.

Curcumin is generally poorly absorbed into the blood stream so taking a type of curcumin called Meriva curcumin helps increase the bioavailability of the product. Bioavailability refers to the degree at which the product is absorbed.  Some studies have suggested that meriva curcumin demonstrated 29 times greater bioavailability than normal curcumin.

When looking for the product that will help you the most you need to consider the bioavailability and the dosage. By looking for a product that contains meriva curcumin you are ensuring you have the best chance of absorbing it. With regards to dosage we recommend taking 1000mg when in s flare up and 125-250mg when not in a flare up, therefore keeping this in mind make sure you find a product that has a high dosage per capsule so you don’t have to take too many. The product we use here at Elite Spinal is Thorne Meriva-SR which contains 125mg per capsule.

Fish Oil

Fish oil has been shown to possess many health benefits. One of these is its ability to decrease inflammation through out the body. It acts in a way that resolves inflammation after it has done its job. Research shows that as we age we produce less inflammation resolving agents so taking fish oil you are increasing the amount of inflammation resolving agents in your system.

The active ingredients that are in fish oil are EPA and DHA. When looking for the right product for you you need to read the label and look at the level of EPA and DHA in the product. Many products will say the total amount of fish oil in each capsule for example 1000mg on the front of the container however it is important to read the back of the label to find the EPA and DHA level. You would want a product that contains at least 250mg of EPA and 230mg of DHA.

Another thing to consider when choosing your fish oil is the cleanliness of the product. Many companies obtain their fishoil from larger fish, therefore there is a risk that it may contain mercury. It is important to look at the purification method that is used to ensure there are not high levels of mercury in the product. The product we use here at Elite Spinal is Usana’s Biomega, it contains 290mg of EPA and 235mg of DHA. It is purified using a double distillation process leaving it essentially free of harmful contaminants.

With regards to dosage we recommend taking 1000mg  EPA and 920mg DHA when in s flare up and 250mg  EPA and 230mg DHA when not in a flare up, therefore keeping this in mind make sure you find a product that has a high dosage per capsule so you don’t have to take too many.

Recent Posts


Clinical Pilates: The best exercise for back pain

Here at Elite Spinal Physiotherapy and Pilates we combine both Clinical Pilates and Exercise Rehabilitation methods into the same session depending on your needs. All of our practitioners have degrees in both Exercise Physiology as well as Physiotherapy.

How we are different?

  • Physiotherapist led sessions
  • Small groups of maximum 4 per session
  • Health fund rebates available
  • Fully equipped, state of the art studio

Benefits of Clinical Pilates:

  • Reduced neck and lower back pain
  • Increased postural awareness and correction
  • Improved core strength and spinal stability
  • Reduced risk of injury from work and sport
  • Increased bone density
  • Whole body toning
  • Enhance performance in other physical activities

Recent Posts


Headache Physiotherapy: How your neck causes your headache

Headaches and migraines can be very debilitating and affect approximately 50% of the population.

There can be a range of causes responsible for headaches. Some of the latest research has shown that dysfunction in the top three vertebrae of the spine is a major contributor to headaches and migraines. This is the case is because it has been shown that the brainstem has become sensitised. This means that normal stimuli that is transmitted through the brain stem is interpreted in a different way to normal by the brain.

The areas that transmit stimuli through the brain stem are:

  • Neck
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Nose and Sinuses
  • Forehead
  • Sinuses
  • Scalp

This is why if one of your triggers is associated with one of the areas mentioned above, dysfunction in the neck may be a causative factor.

Treatment of the cervical spine consisting of gentle mobilisation helps to reduce the dysfunction of the cervical spine, therefore decreasing the sensitisation of the brainstem. This leads to a decrease in headaches and migraines.

Recent Posts


Getting to the ‘Core’ of the problem

Having a strong core is very important in both prevention and rehabilitation of back pain, hip pain and knee pain.

What are your core muscles?

Deep stabilising muscles that support your spine. These include:

  • Pelvic Floor
  • Transverse Abdominus
  • Multifidus

The most common muscle that people refer to when talking about the core is the Transverse Abdominus. This is the deepest layer of the abdominal muscle wall and are hidden under the six-pack muscles called the Rectus Abdominus and Internal and External obliques.

The Transverse abdominus attaches to the thoracolumbar fascia and lower 6 ribs, so when tensioned, creates a support for your back, similar to a corset tied tight and gives you the shapely waist most desire.

Pilates is arguably the best way to learn to engage your core.

Recent Posts


5 Top Tips To Prevent Low Back Pain

Back pain now affects 80% of the population at some point their life. It is debilitating and can greatly affect quality of life if it is not treated properly. 90% of back pain comes from one of the structures of the spine such as the disc, facet joints or sacroiliac joint. Dysfunction within these structures causes the muscles to tighten and cause more discomfort.

The top tips for preventing low back pain are:

1. Keep Active

The spine thrives on movement. Movement within the spine promotes healthy discs and healthy joints. Exercise such as walking is good for your whole body however mobility exercises are vital to preventing back pain. These can consist of pilates, yoga or a well prescribed gym program.

 2. Keep Your Core Strong

The core muscles work together to provide stability for the spine. Working on the deep core stabilising muscles is incredibly important and can make all the difference when preventing low back pain. It is important to not build up the superficial core muscles too much as this actually leads to compression within the spine. The superficial muscles are your ‘six pack’ muscles which are technical called the rectus abdominus muscles.

3. Keep Your Deep Spinal Muscles Strong

The multifidus muscle is a very important muscle group that provides stability between the segments of the spine. It is not worked in traditional back strengthening exercises such as back extensions. The way to get this muscle group strong is by rolling down to touch your toes and then unfurling back up keeping the core muscles switched on.

 4. Avoid Sitting for longer than 1 hour at a time

Sitting causes compression of the spine. In between every vertebrae is a intervertebral disc. These discs are like soft centred chocolates. They are filled with fluid which allows the disc to act as a cushion between the vertebrae, absorbing impact and allowing comfortable movement of the spine. With sitting causing compression on the spine the fluid slowly leaks out leaving the disc dehydrated  and loss of disc height. This leads to spinal degeneration over time.

By getting up every hour and moving around you are decreasing the pressure on the disc and allowing it to reabsorb

5. Keep Your Inflammation Levels Low

Inflammation levels within the body can have a large effect on back pain. Due to the world we live in inflammatory levels generally are quite high in the majority of the population. Curcumin which is an extract of turmeric is a wonderful natural anti-inflammatory that can be taken regularly with out the side effects of pharmaceutical anti-infammatories.

Fish oil is also another one of my favourite natural anti-infammatories. When choosing a fish oil make sure you choose one that has been mercury filtered.

Recent Posts


Elite Spinal Physiotherapy & Pilates