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Brain & Spine Disorders

Thoracic Disc Disease

The thorax is the area of the back located between the end of the neck and just above the waistline. Located between each vertebrae (bone) in the thorax is a piece of gelatinous material called the thoracic disc. These discs are the shock absorbers of the upper back. When a disc ruptures through its surrounding fibrous band, it is called a disc herniation.

Symptoms

The herniated piece of the disc then may pinch on a nerve, possibly causing one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Limited or painful movement of the upper back.
  • Numbness.
  • Pain or tingling from the upper back and around the chest.
  • Weakness in the legs.
  • Pain when coughing, sneezing or taking a deep breath.
Causes
As we age, the discs gradually become dry and flattened. Eventually, the disc space becomes narrow, and the vertebrae begin to touch one another. This is known as degenerative disc disease. The narrower the space between the bones, the less room the nerve has to travel. The nerves then may become irritated, resulting in pain, numbness and tingling in a band-like area around your chest. It also may cause weakness and numbness in your legs, difficulty walking or changes in your bowel or bladder. Diagnostic tests

If your health-care provider suspects you have thoracic disc disease or a herniated thoracic disc, you may need a thorough medical history, physical exam plus one or more of the following:

CT Scan (Computerized Tomography)
X-ray pictures of the upper back.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Non-X-ray picture of the upper back (let the radiologist know if you are uncomfortable in small, tight spaces).

Myelogram
Water soluble dye is injected into the spinal space and X-rays are taken of the upper back.

Risk Reduction 
  • Avoid or stop smoking.
  • Perform gentle stretching exercises of your back.
  • Maintain good posture while walking and sitting.
  • Avoid slouching in a chair, sofa or bed.
  • Avoid bending or lifting heavy objects.
  • If you have to lift something, always bend the knees and have your legs do the work.
  • Wear low-heel, comfortable shoes.
  • Take frequent stretch breaks when driving long distances.
  • Maintain a routine exercise schedule (walking is a good choice).
  • Lose excess weight and keep your weight within normal range for your height.
  • Make a healthy diet part of your life.
Mid Back Pain & Disorders (Thoracic Spine)

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