Overview of radiculopathy in the thoracic spine

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

The term radiculopathy refers to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Traveling pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness

This pain can travel from the site of the pinched nerve root 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. Whether you have been diagnosed with this condition or you are researching the potential causes of your symptoms, educating yourself as a patient can be an important to finding the relief you deserve. The following information can help you work better with your doctor to develop an effective treatment plan.

Diagnosing thoracic radiculopathy

Compared to lumbar radiculopathy (lower spinal) and cervical radiculopathy (upper spinal), thoracic radiculopathy is more 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 rigidity, as contrasted with the more flexible 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 compression, resulting in thoracic radiculopathy, include:

  • Spinal injury, especially from trauma related to an accident
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bulging disc
  • Herniated disc
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spur
  • 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 include:

  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • 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. If you are considering spine surgery, contact the caring team at Laser Spine Institute.

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 75,000 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 no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*