What are the T1 to T12 facet joints?

The thoracic spine is made up of 12 unique vertebrae in the middle back, often referred to as the T1 to T12 vertebrae. When functioning correctly, these vertebrae provide the middle back with the strength and stability necessary for supporting the rib cage, which is directly connected to the thoracic vertebrae. Because the thoracic spine is connected to the rib cage, this section of the spine does not allow for as much movement as the other areas of the spine, such as the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back).

While not as susceptible to damage as the cervical spine or the lumbar spine, the thoracic spine is still at risk for deterioration. Thoracic facet joints and the discs in between the vertebrae can degenerate due to age, injury and overuse. To learn more about the deterioration process as well as the treatments available to relieve any pain and discomfort experienced at the T1 to T12 facet joints, read the following article.

Deterioration in the T1 to T12 facet joints

In a healthy spine, the thoracic vertebrae are held together comfortably by T1 to T12 facet joints and soft discs. Each vertebra has two pairs of facet joint surfaces — one pair faces upward, and the other pair faces downward. These joints intersect with the vertebrae above and below, creating a hinge-like connection, which provides flexibility and extension while also maintaining a link across the spine segment.

The gradual deterioration of the T1 to T12 facet joints, discs and vertebrae is often a byproduct of the natural aging process, but can also be attributed to overuse, poor body mechanics, traumatic injury, facet joint osteoarthritis (arthritis of the spine) and other disorders. Symptoms of back problems in the thoracic spine include:

  • Local back pain
  • Traveling pain radiating along the nerve
  • Weakness of the muscles
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Stiffness or soreness in the middle back

Treatment for T1 to T12 facet joints

Treatment of problems in the T1 to T12 facet joints can usually be managed with conservative treatment. A doctor will generally recommend a series of nonsurgical therapies, including pain medications, physical therapy, a back brace, epidural steroid injections and chiropractic care. If the pain continues after several weeks or months of this treatment, surgery may become an option.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery to treat thoracic facet disease and other degenerative spine conditions. Since 2005, we’ve helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain each year, and our procedures offer patients a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication than traditional open back surgery.^ To learn more about the advantages of our outpatient surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

Depending on the severity of your condition, we may recommend a minimally invasive facet thermal ablation, performed most often in conjunction with a decompression procedure, to reduce the swelling and pain in your facet joints. If other damage to your spine has developed in relation to this condition, we may recommend a minimally invasive decompression surgery.

This type of procedure removes a small portion of the damaged section of the spine to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve. If the spine is no longer stable in one area, we may recommend a stabilization surgery to insert an artificial disc or bone graft that helps support the spine. To take the next step toward pain relief and find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today and request a free MRI review.*