A guide to the T1 – T12 nerve roots

The 12 nerve root pairs in the thoracic spine, otherwise known as the T1 – T12 nerve roots, refer to the location where nerves branch off the spinal cord in the thoracic (middle) spine before exiting the spinal column. These nerve roots are critical for sending sensory and motor information between the brain and the rest of the body and can therefore be a source of debilitating symptoms if they become compressed or irritated.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a condition affecting one or more of these nerve roots or you are researching potential causes of your pain, learning about the T1 – T12 nerve roots can be beneficial. We hope the following information can help you work more closely with your doctor to find the relief you require for a healthy and active lifestyle.

Function of the thoracic nerve roots

The spinal cord travels from the brain and extends through the spinal canal into the lumbar (lower) spine. In the thoracic spine, thoracic nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and exit the spinal column through small openings between the vertebrae — called foramina — before spreading out to the following areas of the body:

  • Abdomen
  • Chest
  • Middle back
  • Lower part of the shoulders
  • Inner arms and armpits

In the event that a T1 – T12 nerve root becomes compressed or pinched, the pain and symptoms can travel along the length of the nerve pathway, sending a trail of pain from the spine to the chest, abdomen and other affected areas.

Spine conditions that affect the T1 – T12 vertebrae

The thoracic spine, while not as prone to spine conditions as the lumbar or cervical regions of the spine, can sometimes develop conditions from degeneration or injury. These can include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Facet disease or other disorders affecting the joints
  • Traumatic or mild injury
  • Regular aging
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Other forms of osteoarthritis

These conditions can cause nerve compression in the thoracic spine, which can lead to the symptoms mentioned above.

If you are experiencing this pain, your doctor will most likely recommend a conservative treatment program to help reduce your symptoms, including options like rest, physical therapy, medication, massage and spinal injections.

However, if you are still in pain at the end of a full course of conservative treatment, you should contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries are an outpatient alternative to traditional open neck or open back surgery. This allows our patients to benefit from a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication in comparison.

We’re pleased to offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.