Thoracic disc protrusion is a condition in which one or more of the intervertebral discs that cushion the twelve vertebrae in the thoracic spine (T1-T12) deteriorate to the point of potentially causing nerve compression. As the thoracic spine (middle back) is attached to the ribcage and is relatively static, disc disorders are far less common in this region as they are in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) spine segments.
In a normal spine, the vertebrae are separated by pliable, thick pads that absorb the pressures of neck and back movement. These pads, along with the vertebral joints, also provide the spine its flexibility and mobility. Over time, intervertebral discs lose their ability to spring back. Instead, the discs can become compressed and pushed out of place, allowing the disc to protrude into other parts of the spinal column. If a disc protrusion comes into contact with one of the nerves in the spine, a number of potential pain-related symptoms may present.
Specific symptoms depend on the location and the severity of the thoracic, or T1-T12 disc protrusion, but may include:
- Deep, local middle or upper back pain
- Muscle weakness in the abdomen
- Pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the chest, stomach, or inner arms
- Other back stiffness or soreness
- Traveling painradiating along? the nerve
The prognosis for a patient suffering from a thoracic disc protrusion is fortunately quite good. Typically, disc protrusion treatment involves a conservative course of action including physical therapy, heat or ice packs, pain medication or injections, and more. However, a small percentage of the population continues to suffer with disc protrusion symptoms for months or years. These patients are left to consider spine surgery as the last option.