The T11 vertebra is slightly different from the rest of the thoracic vertebrae. It is the second to last vertebra in the middle back, which spans the space between the base of the neck and the bottom of the rib cage. This vertebra is also slightly more susceptible to injury than the rest of the thoracic vertebrae because it is so close to the lower back (the thoracolumbar region), and is therefore involved in many of the lower back’s movements.
While the rib cage attaches to most of the thoracic vertebrae, it does not attach to the T11 vertebra or the T12 vertebra. These ribs are, therefore, called floating ribs. Also, the spinal cord segments are not perfectly lined up with their corresponding vertebrae, meaning that the lumbar spinal cord segment is between the T11 vertebra and T12 vertebra, not the L1 vertebra and L2 vertebra.
It can be difficult to diagnose pain in the thoracolumbar region, and a physical exam may not yield enough information for your physician to confirm that your vertebrae injury is located in the middle region of the back. While an MRI or CT scan can more accurately diagnose a spinal condition, a physical exam will likely be performed first and could include the following:
- Your physician will palpate the areas around your T11 vertebra. Pain or spasms may indicate damage in this area.
- Your physician will do a visual examination of your thoracic spine vertebrae, checking for deformity, swelling, poor posture or abnormal curvature.
- A leg test will most likely be necessary; a patient lies down flat and an examiner gently lifts one leg at a time about 30 degrees off the ground. Pain may indicate that the spine damage is actually in the lumbar region, not the thoracic region.
- Finally, an X-ray will help to confirm a diagnosis. Your physician will want to rule out certain conditions, such as tumors, cysts, scoliosis and infection in or around the T11 vertebra.