Thoracic disc prolapse

A thoracic disc prolapse is another term for a herniated disc located in the region of the 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1 to T12), which form the central portion of the spine. A disc can become prolapsed from sudden injury or years of constant pressure from the spine, which can force the outer layer of the disc to tear and the inner disc fluid to leak.

A prolapsed or herniated disc is less likely to occur in the thoracic spine than in other areas of the spine like the neck (cervical spine) or lower back (lumbar spine). This is because the thoracic spine offers a limited range of motion, especially when compared to the highly flexible cervical and lumbar spine. In fact, the thoracic spine is not meant to move very much at all. Instead, it is attached to the rib cage to help support the posture of the upper body.

Still, there is a chance, with the natural degeneration of the spine or sudden injury, that a damaged disc can develop in the thoracic spine. If this does occur, the symptoms can be painful and spread from the back into the arms, neck and chest.

Symptoms of thoracic disc prolapse

Because the symptoms associated with a prolapsed disc in the thoracic spine can resemble other conditions — including heart, lung, kidney or gastrointestinal disorders — you should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain (If accompanied by shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention.)
  • Upper back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Numbness or tingling below the pinched nerve
  • Loss of balance
  • Lower body muscle weakness

Treatment for a thoracic prolapsed disc

If your doctor diagnoses you with a thoracic prolapsed disc — or even a prolapsed lumbar disc (in the lower back) or a prolapsed cervical disc (in the neck) — the symptoms can often be managed through nonsurgical treatment. This can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Pain medication
  • Chiropractic manipulation

Typically, conservative treatment takes several months before any lasting relief is experienced. If, however, you are still suffering from pain and symptoms after conservative treatments have been exhausted, you may consider spine surgery as a necessary treatment option.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer patients a safer and effective method of spine surgery than traditional open back surgery. Our procedures are performed in the comfort of our world-class surgery centers, so our patients can receive the best in patient-centered care in an environment of comfort and compassion.

To treat a prolapsed or damaged disc in the thoracic spine, our surgeons can perform a minimally invasive decompression or stabilization procedure. A decompression surgery, which is the most common type of procedure for this condition, removes the damaged part of the disc that is pressing against the nerve root, while still maintaining stability and support in the spine. A stabilization surgery is used when the disc is too damaged to support the spine, in which case the disc is simply removed and replaced with an artificial one.

If you’re enduring the pain of a thoracic disc prolapse and you’re searching for pain relief, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can help you learn how to take the next step toward reclaiming your quality of life.