The T11 vertebra — overview and treatment for disorders

The T11 vertebra is slightly different from the rest of the thoracic vertebrae. It is the second-to-last vertebra in the middle back, which spans the space between the base of the neck and the bottom of the rib cage. This vertebra is also slightly more susceptible to injury than other thoracic vertebrae because it is so close to the lower back and is therefore involved in more of the lower back’s movements.


While the rib cage attaches to most of the thoracic vertebrae, it does not attach to the T11 vertebra or the T12 vertebra. This gives these vertebra the name floating ribs.

Additionally, the spinal cord segments are not perfectly lined up with their corresponding vertebrae, meaning that the lumbar spinal cord segment is between the T11 vertebra and T12 vertebra, not the L1 vertebra and L2 vertebra. For this reason, some cases of nerve compression between the T11 and T12 vertebrae can impact the lower body.

Diagnosis of an issue affecting the T11 vertebra

It can be difficult to diagnose pain in the thoracolumbar (thoracic and lumbar) region. While an MRI or CT scan can more accurately diagnose a spinal condition, a physical exam will likely be performed first by your doctor and could include the following:

  • Your physician will check the areas around your T11 vertebra by hand. Pain or spasms may indicate damage in this area.
  • Your physician will do a visual examination of your thoracic spine vertebrae, checking for deformity, swelling, poor posture or abnormal curvature.
  • A leg test will most likely be necessary; for a leg test, the patient lies down flat and an examiner gently lifts one leg at a time about 30 degrees off the ground. Pain may indicate that the spine damage is actually in the lumbar region, not the thoracic region.
  • Finally, an X-ray will help to confirm a diagnosis. Your physician will want to rule out certain conditions, such as tumors, cysts, scoliosis and infection in or around the T11 vertebra.

If the physical and imaging tests show you have a spine condition near the T11 vertebra, your physician may recommend a series of conservative treatments or spine surgery. Typically, spine surgery becomes a more serious consideration if conservative treatments have been exhausted. Patients being recommended for spine surgery should contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about treatment options.

The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers patients an outpatient alternative to traditional open back surgery. With shorter recovery times and a lower risk of infection and complication, our procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice compared to traditional open back surgery.^

For more information about the minimally invasive spine surgery we have available to treat degenerative spine conditions, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can review your MRI report or CT scan* and determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.