Thoracic spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the middle back region known as the thoracic region. This condition can involve any of the thoracic vertebrae which are commonly called T1-T12.
Thoracic spinal stenosis manifests itself differently than spinal stenosis in other areas of the back because the thoracic vertebrae are joined to the ribs. Due to the unique interconnectivity of the thoracic vertebrae and the ribs, the primary motion that is affected with thoracic spinal stenosis is the body’s ability to rotate, or move from side to side.
Symptoms of thoracic spinal stenosis may include:
- Pain in the affected area of the back
- Pain in the ribs
- Pain radiating down the back or legs
- Pain in one or more internal organs
- Aching in the legs that leads to difficulty walking
It is not unheard of for thoracic spinal stenosis to be accompanied by lumbar spinal stenosis (in the lower back), cervical spinal stenosis (in the neck), or both.
Although spinal stenosis in the thoracic region can be congenital, in most cases it is a result of the natural aging process. The thoracic vertebrae, as well as other vertebrae, can develop a number of conditions over time due to wear-and-tear, injury, or overuse. All of these conditions can contribute to narrowing of the spinal canal, such as:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Bulging disc
- Bone spurs
Pain associated with thoracic spinal stenosis is the result of discs, bone spurs, ligaments, or other tissue expanding into the mid-spinal canal, causing it to narrow. This narrowing puts undue pressure on nerve roots in the thoracic region, and painful symptoms typically result.