The T12 vertebra

The T12 vertebra is the last vertebra in the thoracic region of the spine, which is generally defined as the middle back. It is also the largest vertebra in its region because the thoracic vertebrae increase in size as they go down the back in order to compensate for an increasing weight load.

The thoracic spine is largely responsible for supporting the rib cage and the posture of the upper body. While many of the thoracic vertebrae connect to the rib cage, the T11 and T12 vertebrae do not. These two vertebrae are sometimes more often associated with the function of the lower back, which is stability and support, than with the limited mobility of the thoracic spine.

Conditions and symptoms

While spine conditions near the thoracic vertebrae are less common than conditions that develop in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) spine, these conditions can still develop and cause pain in the back and around the rib cage.

Sometimes, thoracic vertebrae pain can be difficult to diagnose because the pain is referred, meaning the discomfort appears to come from places other than the exact site of damage. Understanding which areas of the body correspond to certain areas of the spine can help you to understand your symptoms better. For example:

  • The 12 thoracic spine vertebrae extend from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage.
  • The T4 vertebra is basically situated in the area of the pectoral muscles.
  • The T10 vertebra is in line with the belly button, or umbilicus.
  • The T12 vertebra ends just above the pelvic girdle.

Treatment options

If you are experiencing pain in any of these areas, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. After a thorough examination and X-rays, your physician should be able to confirm a diagnosis for the cause of your pain. If your discomfort is not due to trauma, cancer, infection or scoliosis, then it is possible that you have sustained some damage to the discs above or below the T12 vertebra.

Disc damage can often be treated with conservative methods of treatment, such as pain medication and physical therapy, as directed by your doctor. If spine surgery is needed after conservative treatment has been exhausted, you may be a candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

To date, our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries have helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Because our procedures offer a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication, our minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open back surgery.

Find out if you are a candidate by sending us your MRI report or CT scan to review so we can help you take the next step on your journey to pain relief.