Thoracic ruptured disc overview

A thoracic ruptured disc, or a ruptured disc located in the middle back, is fairly uncommon compared to other locations for a ruptured disc, like the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). The reason for this is the vertebrae in your middle back do not have as much stress put upon them as those in your neck and lower back do, thus allowing the middle region to avoid years of wear.

Additionally, the purpose of the thoracic spine is not to bend and move like other areas of the spine, but rather to support the rib cage and the posture of the upper body. Because the thoracic spine does not have as much movement or deterioration, the discs are less likely to become damaged or rupture. To learn about the causes of a thoracic ruptured disc as well as the treatments available for relief, read the following article.

What causes a ruptured disc in the thoracic spine?

A ruptured disc is caused when the elasticity in the tough outer layer of the disc tears. This can occur suddenly if there is too much pressure placed on the disc at one time from activities like bending to lift something that is too heavy, or a high-speed vehicle accident. A ruptured disc can also be a slow development with the natural aging and deterioration of the spine.

Once the disc ruptures and the nucleus leaks out, it can compress a nerve root in the spinal canal and cause severe symptoms in the thoracic region of the spine. This may include:

  • Sudden onset of middle back pain
  • Radiating pain to the ribs, chest and down the arms
  • Tingling and weakness in the affected area
  • Muscle spasms

Treatment for a thoracic ruptured disc

Even though a thoracic ruptured disc is less common than a cervical ruptured disc or lumbar ruptured disc, the pain can be severe and greatly reduce your quality of life. If you’re experiencing the effects of a thoracic ruptured disc, it is important that you consult your doctor. He or she can diagnose the cause of your pain and prescribe a treatment plan based on the progression of your condition.

Typically, it is advised to begin with a course of conservative care to treat your ruptured disc, with surgical intervention being used as a last resort. This may include treatments like pain medication, anti-inflammatories, epidural steroid injections, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and range-of-motion exercises. However, if several weeks or months of treatment are not effective in providing you with relief, you may be a candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute.

If you’re recommended to undergo spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute and learn about the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery compared to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive spine procedures have helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain each year, and we are confident we can help you regain your quality of life. To find out if our outpatient procedures would be effective for your ruptured disc, ask our team for a free MRI review.*