Understanding a compressed nerve in the thoracic region of the spine

It is far less common to experience a compressed nerve in the thoracic (middle) region of the spine than in the lumbar (lower back) region or the cervical (neck) region, because of the relatively fixed nature of the 12 thoracic vertebrae, which are located in the torso (chest) and attached to the ribs. The thoracic region is not subjected to the same stresses as the lower back and the neck, like supporting the weight of the upper body and head and facilitating a wide range of motion. That being said, the thoracic region is the area of the spine most commonly affected by the abnormal spinal curvature known as scoliosis, which can also cause nerve compression. The lower thoracic region is also where the longest and largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, originates before branching off to stimulate most of the lower body.

The thoracic nerves

Even though a compressed nerve in the thoracic region is relatively rare, it can occur. When it does, the most common symptom is localized pain, often accompanied by inflammation. At times, though, nerve compression in the thoracic area of the spine can lead to symptoms that are similar to those brought on by compression within the cervical or lumbar regions. The difference is that radiating pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness is not felt in the arms or legs. Rather, a compressed nerve in the thoracic region can cause symptoms to appear in the:

  • Middle back
  • Upper chest
  • Abdomen
  • Ribcage
  • Buttocks

The thoracic nerves are also responsible for carrying signals between the brain and several vital organs, including the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, pancreas and bladder, among others.

Nerve compression treatment

Laser Spine Institute’s surgeons focus on treating nerve compression that originates in the lumbar and cervical regions. A compressed nerve in the thoracic region usually can be treated without surgery, although anyone who experiences the symptoms listed above should consult a physician before starting any treatment plan. If you have been diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition, however, including compressed nerves leading to sciatica, contact Laser Spine Institute. You can learn about the benefits of the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures our surgeons have perfected as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery. For example, our minimally invasive stabilization surgery utilizes much smaller incisions compared to traditional open spine fusions. Contact us today to learn more.