Degenerative thoracic spine is a term used to describe a degenerative spine condition that has developed in the middle of the back (thoracic spine). Although the thoracic spine is less likely to deteriorate compared to the lumbar or cervical (neck) regions, as this section of the spine is not immune to degeneration and damage.
The thoracic spine is unique for several reasons. First, the 12 vertebrae of the thoracic spine (T1 to T12) connect directly to the ribs, meaning that they help the rib cage protect major organs like the heart, lungs and liver. Because they are anchored to the rib cage, the thoracic vertebrae do not have the same range of motion as vertebrae in the neck or lower back and therefore are not at the same risk of developing a degenerative spine condition.
In some cases, a spine condition does develop in the thoracic spine and can cause the following symptoms:
Muscle weakness, numbness or tingling
Pain during certain movements
These symptoms can occur in the spine or as far away as the arms or legs. This is because when a nerve root is pinched from a degenerative spine condition, the pain and symptoms can travel the length of the nerve pathway, sometimes extending into the extremities.
Two common degenerative thoracic spine conditions include osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis of the spine, is the deterioration of cartilage around the facet joints — the joints that allow the vertebrae to hinge and move. Degenerative disc disease, on the other hand, is the gradual breakdown of the discs in between each set of vertebrae. Both of these conditions can lead to the development of the following degenerative conditions in the thoracic spine:
Facet joint inflammation (facet disease or degenerative joint disease)
Mr Torrie can recommend a series of conservative treatments for pain relief depending on the type, severity and location of the degenerative disease in your thoracic spine. These treatments can include:
However, if the pain continues after several months of treatment, you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery. This approach adopted by Mr Torrie allows his patients to experience a shorter recovery and less risk of complication when compared to traditional open spine surgery. While many patients may find relief from our decompression surgery, some patients with severe thoracic spine damage may require stabilization surgery.