Thoracic disc prolapse overview

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 tough outer layer of the disc to tear and the gel-like center of the disc to leak.

A prolapsed 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. To learn about the symptoms of this condition and how to find relief from a thoracic disc prolapse, read the following article.

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
  • Muscle weakness in the lower body

Conservative treatment for a thoracic prolapsed disc

If your doctor diagnoses you with a thoracic prolapsed disc, 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, low-impact exercise, intermittent periods of rest, pain medication and chiropractic manipulation.

Typically, conservative treatment takes several weeks or months before any lasting relief is experienced. If, however, you are still suffering from pain and discomfort after conservative treatments have been exhausted, you may consider spine surgery as a necessary treatment option. As you are researching your surgical options, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery.

Thoracic prolapsed disc surgery

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Our procedures are performed in our state-of-the-art surgery centers located around the country, 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 board-certified surgeons+ can perform a minimally invasive decompression or stabilization procedure. A decompression surgery, which is the most common type of procedure for this condition, uses a less than 1-inch incision to remove 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 uses a small, muscle-sparing incision 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, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today and ask for a free MRI review* to learn if you are a potential candidate for our procedures. We can help you learn how to take the next step toward reclaiming your quality of life.