Thoracic bulging disc
A thoracic bulging disc is a disc in the middle of the back (thoracic spine) that has flattened and expanded under the pressure from the surrounding vertebrae. While any type of degenerative disc condition in the thoracic spine is a much less common occurrence than a damaged disc in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) spine, it is still possible and can be painful.
A bulging disc is less likely to develop in the thoracic spine because this area of the back does not allow for much movement, especially when compared to the highly flexible neck and lower back. The middle of the back is attached to the rib cage and serves to provide support for the rib cage and upper body. However, certain factors like age and injury can still cause a bulging disc in the thoracic spine, which could cause nerve compression, pain and symptoms.
Symptoms of a thoracic bulging disc
Pain and discomfort associated with a thoracic bulging disc may be localized at the mid back and shoulder area, in the region of the T1 to T12 vertebrae. Sometimes pain, numbness and tingling may radiate from the thoracic bulging disc area to the neck, arms and fingers. On some occasions, thoracic bulging disc pain can also travel to the legs, buttocks and feet. Additionally, pain and discomfort from a thoracic bulging disc can radiate to the chest and abdomen.
Bulging disc symptoms may be increased during the following activities:
- Slouching (poor posture)
- Lifting (especially lifting that involves twisting)
- Sneezing or coughing
- Using arms in the front of the body to perform a task that requires long periods of bending forward, such as washing dishes or driving
- Bending forward suddenly to pick something up
- Sitting and leaning forward for a long period of time
Recognizing symptoms of a bulging disc will help you identify a damaged disc in your thoracic spine; it is important to schedule an appointment with your physician before the pain becomes debilitating.
Most thoracic bulging disc symptoms can be treated successfully with conservative therapies, such as adopting good posture, avoiding sitting for extended periods of time, completing bulging disc exercises and possibly by taking anti-inflammatory medication. Many of these conservative treatments aim to relieve the pressure on a bulging disc so the body can begin to heal itself through the natural resorption process.
However, if the pain and symptoms continue after several months of conservative treatment, you may require surgery to treat your bulging disc.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgery that is a safer, more effective treatment alternative to traditional open back surgery. Many cases of a bulging disc can be treated using a decompression procedure, which simply extracts a small piece of the damaged disc to reduce pressure on the pinched nerve. If the bulging disc has caused instability in the spine, a stabilization surgery may be necessary to replace the damaged disc with an artificial one to support the spine. This procedure is used for severely bulging or damaged discs.
For more information about the types of minimally invasive surgery available to treat a thoracic bulging disc, or to ask about the advantages of Laser Spine Institute, contact us today.