The twelve vertebrae that support the rib cage in the middle back are known as the thoracic spine, or T1-T12. In a normal spine, these vertebrae are held together by facet joints and are separated by intervertebral discs. Unlike the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower) spine, however, the thoracic spine is not nearly as flexible. As a result, people usually have far fewer problems with their thoracic spine than they do with the segments in the neck and lower back.
In a regularly functioning spine, the vertebrae are separated by soft, spongy intervertebral discs that act as cushions. These discs provide the back with its flexion and extension. Meanwhile, synovial joints, known as the facet joints, connect the vertebrae in a hinge-like fashion. This gives the spine additional mobility but also keeps the vertebrae interlocked and stable. Since it is directly connected to and anchored by the ribcage, the thoracic spine may not be as susceptible to injury as the cervical or lumbar spine, but it is certainly not immune to regular wear and tear.
Some common causes of deterioration in the T1-T12 are:
- Regular aging
- Degenerative disc disease
- Facet disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Poor posture or diet
- And more
Most back pain can be managed over time with a conservative treatment plan. In fact, disc surgery and other surgical procedures are usually seen as an elective last resort. After the source of the problem with the T1-T12 is identified, the symptoms usually will be treated with pain medication, exercise, and other non-surgical methods.