T1-T12 facet joints

The thoracic spine is made up of 12 unique vertebrae in the middle back, often referred to as the T1-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) spine.

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.

Deterioration in the thoracic facet joints

In a healthy spine, the thoracic vertebrae are held together comfortably by T1-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 hingelike connection, which provides flexibility and extension while also maintaining a link across the spine segment.

The gradual deterioration of the T1-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, injury, facet joint osteoarthritis (arthritis of the spine) and other disorders. Symptoms of back problems in the thoracic spine include:

  • Chronic, 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 facet joints in T1-T12

Treatment of problems in the T1-T12 facet joints can usually be managed with conservative treatment. A physician will generally recommend a series of nonsurgical therapies, including painkillers, physical therapy, a back brace and, possibly, injections. In the event that the pain continues after several 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. To date, we’ve helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain, and our procedures offer patients a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication than traditional open back surgery.

Depending on the severity of your condition, we may recommend a minimally invasive facet thermal ablation 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 in order 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 and/or bone graft to help support the spine.

To take the next step toward pain relief and find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.