Thoracic vertebrae overview

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. Read the following article to learn about the conditions associated with this region of the spine as well as the available treatments for lasting pain relief.

Spine conditions within the thoracic spine

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

Another reason why the thoracic spine is less likely to develop a degenerative condition is that 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.

Treatments for thoracic vertebrae spine conditions

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms at the thoracic vertebrae, it’s important you see your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. While many patients may find relief from conservative treatments like pain medication or physical therapy, some patients may require more severe 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 highly invasive procedures because we offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery as well as a shorter recovery period and a lower risk of complication.^

To see if you are a potential candidate for our muscle-sparing thoracic vertebrae surgery, reach out to us and ask for a free review of your MRI report or CT scan.* Our goal is to help you recover quickly so that you can get back to the activities that you have been missing out on.