The upper back is a portion of the thoracic spine, which is located between the cervical and lumbar spines. The linked ribcage provides the thoracic spine’s 12 vertebrae and cushioning spinal discs with more support than the lumbar or cervical spine, although they are nonetheless susceptible to injury and disease.

The thoracic spine experiences strain even though it doesn’t move as much as the lumbar or cervical spine. With half of the total number of vertebrae in all three regions combined, it is the biggest section of the spine. The discs and vertebrae in the thoracic spine can deteriorate due to improper lifting techniques and poor posture. The thoracic spine can be affected by degenerative disease, traumas, and a variety of spinal disorders, leading to discomfort and neurosurgery dysfunction.

Thoracic Spine Problems Pain Relief

If your upper back hurts, you might be displaying signs of a thoracic spine condition. The thoracic spine can be impacted by a wide range of disorders, many of which share symptoms. To determine the cause of thoracic spine pain and create a treatment plan to reduce pain and enhance spinal health, we use cutting-edge imaging and diagnostic techniques. Certain thoracic spine conditions can be treated at NOVA Ortho & Spine.


The spinal discs act as shock-absorbing cushions for the spinal column and are located in between each vertebra. The discs may tear or rupture due to trauma, illness, or degeneration, which will cause the gel-like substances inside the disc to protrude. A bulging disc in the spine is the term for this ailment, which can aggravate nearby nerves. Everywhere along the spine, including the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar areas, can experience a bulging disc.

Twelve vertebrae and spinal discs make up the thoracic spine, which is located in the upper to middle back. Compared to the cervical or lumbar spine, the thoracic spine is less prone to experience a herniated or bulging disc, but it can still happen. A thoracic bulging disc can be caused by trauma, illness, or degenerative disorders, with the following potential symptoms:


  • the middle to upper back hurts
  • Radiating tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
  • discomfort in the shoulders or neck
  • Radiating chest pain that could be caused by lung, stomach, or heart problems
  • Bulging lumbar discs


Compressing nerves due to bulging discs in any part of the spine can result in pain, weakness, and other symptoms. The majority of bulging discs can be managed without surgery using conservative measures. Surgery is only advised after other treatments have failed to relieve a patient’s pain effectively, including injection therapy and other interventional pain treatments.



The vertebrae and spinal cord are supported and cushioned by the spinal discs. The interior of these discs is soft and jelly-like, with a hard exterior shell. Spinal discs can become flatter and more fragile with age and other circumstances, a condition known as degenerative disc disease (DDD).

DDD Thoracic

Although it is less frequent than cervical or lumbar DDD, thoracic DDD can nonetheless be uncomfortable. Back discomfort at the disc’s level or pain extending to the chest and abdomen can occur if the degenerating disc puts pressure on the nerve roots. The strain on the nerve roots that supply the torso’s organs is what causes these symptoms, which might be mistaken for digestive, cardiovascular, and respiratory problems.


Treatment for degenerative disc disease typically starts out conservatively, with treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and injectable therapy. Surgery is only contemplated after alternative therapies fail to relieve pain or other symptoms.



The spinal column’s vertebrae and spinal cord are shielded by pinal discs, which are rubbery cushions. The interior of the spinal discs is soft and jelly-like, with a hard outside. The inner component of the disc may protrude, or herniate, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves if the outer shell of the disc tears. Among other symptoms, herniated discs can result in chronic discomfort and weakness.


Herniated Disc in the Thorax

Although damaged or herniated spinal discs are less common in the thoracic area of the spine, they can nevertheless happen as a result of trauma or degenerative disc disorders. The mid to upper back may experience localized discomfort as a result of the herniated disc irritating nearby nerve roots. Due to inflammation of the nerve roots in the thoracic spine, radiating pain and numbness may appear around the ribcage and body.


Treatment for a herniated disc is based on how severe the symptoms are. At NOVA Ortho & Spine, we advocate conservative approaches to pain and symptom management since they can be quite successful. Before considering surgery as a treatment option, physical therapy, injectable therapy, and other less invasive procedures are used.


Many people have cervical, thoracic, and lumbar herniated discs without experiencing any pain or other symptoms. Even though the discomfort and the herniated disc are in the same area, it is also possible that they are not related. To choose the best course of action, it is crucial to have a skilled spine specialist provide an accurate diagnosis.



Serious medical issues can be brought on by spinal infections such osteomyelitis and discitis. The degree of the infection and the location of the infection in the spine determine how much damage the neurological system sustains.


Although osteomyelitis and discitis are different illnesses that can affect the spine, they frequently do so simultaneously. Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone or vertebrae, whereas discitis is an inflammation of the spinal discs. Discitis, which can happen in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine and cause the infection to move from the disc to the bone, is a common cause of osteomyelitis. A bacterial infection that originates in another region of the body and travels through the bloodstream to the disc causes discitis.


Spinal Infections in the Thorax

The most typical sign of discitis, osteomyelitis, or both in the thoracic spine is back pain at the site of infection. Moreover, patients may experience a fever and localized pain. Inflammation can irritate nerve roots, which can cause radiculopathy, neuropathic pain, or other symptoms like weakness, loss of bladder control, and gait issues.


Antibiotics can be used to treat spinal infections, but additional therapy for the spine may also be necessary. Surgery can be necessary to restore spine stability if the infection has badly affected the vertebrae or discs.



Membranes, spinal discs, and vertebrae that make up the spinal column protect the spinal cord. Myelopathy can occur when an injury, infection, congenital disorder, or degenerative illness compresses the spinal cord. The location of the spinal cord compression, which may be in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine, affects the symptoms of myelopathy.



The most common causes of spinal cord compression in the middle to upper back are a herniated or bulging disc, an injury, or spine deterioration. Tumors, arthritic conditions, cysts, and bone spurs can potentially contribute to thoracic myelopathy. Mid to upper back pain, problems with balance and coordination, incontinence (urinary or fecal), difficulty walking, and numbness are among the symptoms.


Surgery may be necessary to treat spinal cord compression, especially in cases where the symptoms are severe. Nonetheless, certain patients may benefit from interventional therapies that release the spinal cord’s strain.



Cervical radiculopathy may result from a compressed or “pinched” nerve in the neck. This causes the compressed nerve in the shoulder, arm, and hand to transmit feelings. Sharp or scorching pain that travels into the arms or hands as well as neck ache are also possible effects of cervical nerve compression. Additional signs may include tingling, weakness, or numbness in the hand and arm.



Thoracic nerve compression is less frequent than in the cervical or lumbar spine, although it is nevertheless possible. The thoracic spine is less prone to degenerative diseases that cause pinched nerves or radiculopathy because it moves less than the cervical spine. There may be regional pain as well as radiating pain, numbness, and weakness into the chest, shoulders, and arms when a nerve in the thoracic spine is compressed.



Curvature of the spine, or scoliosis, can be a crippling condition, but there are effective therapies available. Any of the three portions of the spine—cervical, thoracic, or lumbar—can become curved. Treatment options range from conservative physical therapy to spine surgery, depending on the severity and location.


Chest Scoliosis

The most frequent location for scoliosis to develop is the thoracic spine in the upper to middle back. Thoracic scoliosis typically manifests in youngsters between the ages of 10-15, during their development spurt, as a sideways curvature in the mid to upper back. It can also happen to elderly adults for a number of reasons. The lungs or other internal chest organs may be affected by this type of scoliosis since the thoracic spine connects to the ribs and shoulders.



Every spinal cord injury has the potential to seriously harm the nervous system. The spinal cord carries signals from the brain to every muscle, organ, and extremity from the neck down. Depending on where in the spine the lesion occurs in the spinal cord, different regions of the body may be impacted.


Injuries to the Thoracic Spinal Cord

Paraplegia can occur when the thoracic spine in the middle to upper back sustains spinal cord damage. Thoracic spinal cord injuries can damage the bladder, bowels, and legs, although the majority of patients will still have complete use of their arms and breathing system. The severity of the spinal cord injury determines the amount of paralysis or nerve damage.



Spinal instability, also known as spondylolisthesis, occurs when a vertebra falls out of position and rests on the vertebra below it. Degenerative spine diseases, congenital abnormalities, trauma, and other illnesses are only a few of the possible causes. Spondylolisthesis can affect the stability of the spine in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions.


Spondylolisthesis of the Thorax

Instability and back pain can result from slipping vertebrae in the thoracic spine. Since the thoracic spine is more stable and less mobile than the lumbar or cervical spine, slipped vertebrae are less common in the thoracic spine. The most typical signs and symptoms of thoracic spondylolisthesis include stiffness and upper back pain.


Depending on how severe it is, spondylolisthesis requires different treatments. For the majority of lower grades, non-invasive or minimally invasive therapy can be used to alleviate pain and other symptoms. Surgery, such as a laminectomy or spine fusion, may be necessary for severe spine instability.



Spondylolysis is the medical term for a stress fracture of the vertebrae, particularly of the fragile connective bone. Spondylolysis is a prevalent disorder; it is thought that one in twenty persons has it. Despite the fact that many people with this ailment have no symptoms, it can nonetheless result in pain and other symptoms.


The natural tension placed on the spine makes spondylolysis fairly common. Stress fractures in the pars interarticularis, a little portion of bone that connects the vertebrae, can develop through routine activity, although adolescent athletes are more likely to develop them. Treatment for spondylolysis is required if the fracture impairs mobility or causes pain.


Lung Spondylolysis

The thoracic spine’s 12 vertebrae are more stable than the lumbar and cervical spine, which lowers the danger of spondylolysis here. Stress fractures are less likely because of the ribcage’s increased support for the thoracic spine and vertebrae. Symptoms of thoracic spondylolysis can include upper back pain, which may get worse with activity.


Spondylolysis is typically successfully treated with conservative measures. The vertebrae can recover and become pain-free with the help of rest, braces, physical therapy, and interventional pain therapies. The stress fracture can only be repaired surgically in severe cases of spondylolysis.


Thoracic stenosis

Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal column, can result in a wide range of symptoms. The spinal cord and nerve roots leaving the spine may be under stress when the spinal column gets smaller. The cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines are all susceptible to stenosis, which can cause a variety of symptoms and consequences.


Spinal stenosis may be caused by a variety of factors. Although congenital factors might result in a narrower spinal column, injury, degenerative illness, and wear and tear are the main causes of decreased space inside the spinal column. Nerves and the spinal cord can get compressed as a result of bone spurs, thicker ligaments, bulging discs, and other diseases that restrict the space in the spine.


Reducing pain and other symptoms is the primary goal of treatment for cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spinal stenosis. Nerve compression brought on by stenosis may be lessened through interventional and minimally invasive procedures. If non-operative measures fail to relieve nerve or spinal cord compression, spine surgery may be required.

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