The Structure of the Upper Back
There are twelve thoracic (or dorsal) vertebrae in this area, with twelve pairs of ribs forming the rib cage
which contains the heart and lungs. At the front of the body the upper ten ribs are attached to the sternum
or breast bone by means of cartilage. Below the ribs, the large diaphragm muscle has attachments to the
sternum, the lower ribs and the vertebrae of the lower spine. The diaphragm is involved in breathing.
At the back, the flat shoulder blade bones (scapula/e) are positioned over the ribs. The spinal nerves
exit from the spinal cord through openings between the vertebrae, and supply the skin and muscles of the
back and chest. They also have branches, going internally to the heart and respiratory system.
Causes of Body Stress
The chest and back areas may be strained by working in a hunched or twisted posture, e.g. bending over
a sewing machine, doing woodwork, etc. Body stress may be caused by lifting heavy objects or by holding
something up for a long time.
Body stress may also occur as a painful spasm of the diaphragm muscle. Besides the mechanical causes
mentioned above, the cause may be emotional tension, such as shock or anxiety, e.g. the typical
"butterflies in the stomach" feeling. In addition the cause may be chemical, e.g. irritation from eating or
drinking something spicy, acid or very cold. If there is body stress in the lower back, it may be referred into
the muscles of the chest and upper back.
The Effects of Body Stress
There may be a mild, nagging ache in the upper back between the shoulder blades, or possibly a persistent itching. The body stress may also manifest as a severe stabbing pain in this area, or in the chest. The pain is worsened by deep breathing.
Body stress in the diaphragm muscle may result in indigestion or heartburn, or a feeling of breathlessness. It may also manifest as a constant feeling of hunger.
Body stress in the mid and upper back may have an impact on the nerve supply to various internal organs, such as heart, lungs, kidneys and bladder, and may interfere with normal function.
Every few months a four year old girl would wake up in the night with severe stomach pain.
On each occasion she was rushed to hospital but all tests were negative. After a few hours the pain would ease. The BSR assessment showed body stress in the lower rib and diaphragm areas. Questioning the mother revealed that the little girl at times requested iced fruit juice before going to sleep. The problem did not recur as the mother withheld the iced drinks.
After cutting his lawn with a heavy mower, a 40 year old man experienced sudden severe chest pain and breathlessness. The condition continued for two weeks, although medical tests were all negative. After body stress was released in the sternum and rib area the pain withdrew and did not recur.
THE UPPER BACK