Thoracic vertebrae

The thoracic vertebrae are the bones in the middle of the spinal column between the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. The 12 bones that make up the thoracic spine extend from the shoulders to the waist, and these vertebrae serve as attachment points for the rib cage.

Like other vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae protect the spinal cord and provide structural support for the head, shoulders and chest. Each thoracic vertebra is intermediate in size compared to the other vertebrae in the spinal column.

Spine conditions within the thoracic spine

The spinal canal in the thoracic spine is larger than in the other areas of the spine. This canal holds the spinal cord and nerve roots that send signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Because the spinal canal is larger in the thoracic spine, nerve compression is less likely to occur in this area than in the cervical or lumbar spine.

Another reason why the thoracic spine is less likely to develop a degenerative condition is because the thoracic region has a more limited range of motion than the cervical spine and is not responsible for bearing as heavy a load as the lumbar spine.

The thoracic vertebrae are, however, still susceptible to conditions such as:

  • Spondylolisthesis — Though most common in the lumbar spine, this condition can have symptoms that include back pain, tight hamstring muscles — and in advanced cases — the development of a “waddling” gait.
  • Compression fractures — Caused by osteoporosis or a trauma to the spine, these fractures can cause painful symptoms, depending on the amount of displaced bone material placing pressure on the surrounding nerves.
  • Spondylosis — A term for arthritis of the spine, when this condition affects the thoracic vertebrae, it can cause symptoms including back pain, stiffness and discomfort when bending or extending your body.


If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important you see your physician to get an accurate diagnosis.

While many patients may find relief from conservative, nonsurgical treatments like pain medication or physical therapy, some patients may require more serious treatment like spine surgery. If you have exhausted all conservative treatment and your doctor is suggesting spine surgery for your thoracic pain, contact Laser Spine Institute.

The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Patients continually choose our minimally invasive spine surgery over traditional open neck and back surgery because our procedures offer a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication.

To see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us and ask for a review of your MRI report or CT scan.