Thoracic radiculopathy

Thoracic radiculopathy is a term to describe a series of symptoms that originate in the middle portion of the spine due to nerve compression.

The word “radiculopathy” refers to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Traveling pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness

This pain can travel from the site of the pinched nerve around to the chest, shoulders, arms and hands. If left untreated, this condition could worsen, causing simple activities like sitting or walking to become increasingly difficult. The best option to find pain relief is to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your pain and symptoms. Once your doctor diagnoses the cause of your nerve compression, he or she can recommend the best treatment for your thoracic radiculopathy.

Diagnosing thoracic radiculopathy

Compared to lumbar radiculopathy (in the lower back) and cervical radiculopathy (in the neck), thoracic radiculopathy is rare. That’s because of the lack of mobility in the thoracic spine, which serves as an anchor for the ribs as well as support for the torso and upper body. This relative lack of flexibility, as contrasted with the cervical and lumbar regions, exposes the thoracic vertebrae to far less stress as the body ages.

Still, patients enduring neck or back pain shouldn’t rule out the thoracic spine as the origin of their pain without a proper radiculopathy diagnosis. After an initial physical exam, a physician may order an MRI or CT scan to determine the location of a compressed or irritated nerve root.

Potential conditions that may cause nerve root impingement, resulting in thoracic radiculopathy, include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bulging disc
  • Herniated disc
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spur
  • Spinal injury, especially from repeated twisting or rotating
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Foraminal stenosis

Treatment options for thoracic radiculopathy

The symptoms of thoracic radiculopathy normally can be managed through a course of conservative treatment. Conservative radiculopathy treatments generally include:

  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medications
  • Behavior modification
  • Therapeutic massage

Throughout these treatments, be sure to report any change in pain levels to your doctor so you can work together to determine what methods are effective for you.

Occasionally, chronic neck and back pain continues even after months of conservative treatment. If this is the case, your physician may recommend spine surgery. Before you decide which type of spine surgery is right for you, you should research all available options so you can make a confident decision about your spine care needs.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery helps relieve the most common symptoms of degenerative spine conditions by decompressing the pinched nerve root that is causing the pain.

To date, our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries have helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. These procedures offer patients a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of infection and complication than traditional open neck or back surgery.

Find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery by contacting Laser Spine Institute today and requesting a review of your MRI report or CT scan.