Thoracic Spine Sprain


A thoracic spine strain generally involves damage to the zygopophyseal joints. The facet or zygophopphysial joints are joints that articulate at the back of the spine. Each facet joint has cartilage on their surface to protect the joint and strong connective tissue wraps around each of the joints. During movements of the spine stretching and compressive forces act on these joints. If the forces are more than the joint can handle you can damage either the cartilage protecting the joints or the membrane surrounding the joints. This is called a facet joint sprain.

Thoracic spine sprains typically happen after a period of prolonged poor posture, not warming up properly, just after a break where you have cooled down or at the end of the day/game where you are tired; you use poor technique and your core stabilisers fail to work effectively to stabilise your back. You get a sharp pain in your back, typically from a twisting movement; you continue to work but you become stiffer as the day progresses. The next day you wake up with a lot of pain and very restricted movement.

With treatment the majority of facet joint sprains heal within a couple of weeks, however in particularly bad cases it may take significantly longer especially if the aggravating activity is continued.


Signs and symptoms of a thoracic spine sprain:

  • Sudden onset of mid back pain.
  • Pain and stiffness in the mid back, particularly the next day.
  • Discomfort on one side of the spine.
  • Pain aggravated with trunk rotation and extension.
  • Muscle spasm around the area of the sprain.
  • Pain may be referred around into the ribs.


Physiotherapy treatment of  thoracic spine sprain may consist of:

  • Ice to reduce the inflammation.
  • Massage to reduce muscle spasm.
  • Taping for support.
  • Increasing the range of motion of the joints through mobilisations and manipulative techniques.
  • Given the correct exercises to ensure you to restore your movement and strengthen your back.
  • Ensuring correct manual handling techniques are followed.
  • Assessing sports techniques and working biomechanics for dysfunction.