Known as the longest region of the spine and upper back, the thoracic spine runs from the base of your neck all the way down to the abdomen. It is unique in that it’s the only spinal region that is attached to your rib cage. The most important functions of the thoracic spine are to protect the spinal cord and anchor the rib cage.
Conditions of the Thoracic Spine
Some of the most common conditions of the thoracic spine include:
Thoracic Disc Degeneration
Thoracic disc degeneration occurs when the discs in your thoracic region deteriorate or break down. This condition can lead to upper or mid back pain and cause the formation of bone spurs, which may limit mobility in the thoracic spine region.
Scoliosis arises when you have an unusual curve or curves in your spine that make your spine look like an “S” or “C”. It can cause your spine to curve to the left or the right of the thoracic spine region.
Kyphosis refers to an excessive outward curve of the spine that causes your upper back to appear abnormally rounded. It’s also known as roundback or hunchback and usually occurs during adolescence.
Thoracic Disc Herniation
Although disc herniation in the thoracic disc is rare, it can occur and lead to symptoms such as pain in the upper back, numbness, pain or tingling from the upper back and around the chest, leg weakness, and chest pain.
Spinal stenosis arises when your spinal canal narrows. Bone overgrowths known as bone spurs usually lead to this condition and you’re at a higher risk for it if you have scoliosis or osteoarthritis.
How are Thoracic Spine Conditions Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have a condition related to the thoracic spine, it’s essential to see a doctor immediately. They will conduct a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIS may also be performed to confirm your diagnosis.
How are Thoracic Spine Conditions Treated?
In most cases, thoracic spine conditions are treated through conservative measures. A doctor may recommend a brace to allow for optimal healing as well as stabilization exercises to assist you in keeping your shoulders and thoracic spine in the ideal position so you can keep good posture and relieve stress. If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective, surgery may be necessary.