Thoracic arthritis of the spine
While the thoracic (middle) region of the spine is less prone to age-related degenerative disorders than the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions, conditions such as degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis can develop. This is particularly true if the thoracic spine has been subjected to traumatic injury, which can worsen the deterioration of the spine’s parts. The joints between the vertebrae, known as facet joints, gradually wear down as we age. A reduction in the body’s ability to produce synovial fluid, which provides joint lubrication, also is a byproduct of the aging process.
Nonsurgical treatment options for arthritis of the spine
Ultimately, worn joint cartilage can expose the small nerves that serve the joint, which produces the dull ache that is familiar to people with arthritis. Bone-on-bone grinding also causes discomfort and reduces spinal stability, which can lead to the growth of bone spurs. Should a bone spur begin to irritate or compress an adjacent thoracic nerve root or the spinal cord, radiating symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness can strike the chest wall, the abdomen or other parts of the body where the affected thoracic nerve travels.
In many cases, symptoms associated with thoracic arthritis of the spine can be managed using conservative treatment options recommended by your doctor. These include:
- Pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications, both over-the-counter and prescription
- Physical therapy
- Hot and cold therapy
- Spinal injections
- Periods of rest
- Moderate exercise
- Lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking
Other methods of conservative therapy include traction, ultrasound, electrical stimulation or bracing. In addition, some with spinal arthritis swear by the effectiveness of alternative treatments such as chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture.
Considering surgery for thoracic spinal arthritis
If you are recommended to undergo surgery for thoracic arthritis after attempting conservative treatment options for weeks or months without finding relief, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional procedures, offering patients a shorter recovery time with less risk of complication.^
To find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures, ask a member of our dedicated team for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*