Thoracic spondylosis refers to degeneration (i.e., arthritis) in the thoracic spine (i.e., upper and middle back). Because the thoracic spine is less mobile than the neck and low back, it is not as likely to suffer as much wear-and-tear and therefore thoracic spondylosis is not common. Previous injury, history of inflammatory disorders, smoking and sporting activities may all increase the risk of thoracic spondylosis along with other related spinal disorders.
How does thoracic spondylosis come about?
Thoracic spondylosis develops due to the age-related arthritic changes that occur in the spine and its surrounding soft tissue:
- Excessive mechanical stress and the presence of structural fissures in the articular cartilage result in cartilage damage in the joints.
- Cartilage in this area becomes rough and worn out, affecting the movement of the joint. This may initiate the release of enzymes that expedite the disintegration of cartilage. This acts as the trigger for bone spur formation.
- The spinal intervertebral discs loose structurally supportive proteins and thus become dehydrates and shrink. They are also predisposed to tearing, which causes disc bulging or protrusion and herniation.
- Ligaments thicken and begin to calcify, resulting in flecks of bone and further bone spur formation.
- As the central spinal canal and the foramina thicken their ligaments, compression of the possibility of spinal cord compression (i.e., myelopathy).
Symptoms of thoracic spondylosis
We will all experience wear-and-tear in the spine as we age. There isn’t a way to avoid this. In most cases, this wear-and-tear will never be noticed. Symptoms in thoracic spondylosis may only be present if there is modest amounts of degeneration in the spine. Tears in the disc can become painful (i.e., discogenic pain), and bone spurs that crash into spinal nerves can be painful (radicular pain).
Common symptoms of thoracic spondylosis include:
- Pain and stiffness in the mid back, particularly in the morning after you get out of bed
- Tingling or numbness in the legs, arms, hands or feet
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination or difficulty walking
Treatment of thoracic spondylosis
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to wear-and-tear in the back, so education is a big component of thoracic spondylosis at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C). Treatments will be directed to the cause of the pain and discomfort. Spondylosis in the spine doesn’t produce pain in itself; however, if a disc becomes torn or ruptures this can cause significant pain. Bone spurs that irritate spinal joints or spinal nerves will cause mid back pain and nerve pain (radicular pain). Chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments will typically be very successful for thoracic spondylosis and when combine with exercise form lasting, durable solution.
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