Osteochondrosis of the thoracic region

Osteochondrosis is a long-term disease. Most often, when assessing the severity of pathological processes, four stages are distinguished:

  • The first stage is the period of initial changes that occur in the fibrous ring of the disc, which often goes unnoticed by the patient;
  • The second stage corresponds to the appearance of instability in the affected segment of the spine, reduction in disc height;
  • The third phase is characterized by the appearance of hernias or osteochondral growths - osteophytes, the fibrous ring at this stage is almost destroyed;
  • The fourth stage is characterized by irreversible damage to all structures that provide intervertebral articulation, disc fibrosis and loss of mobility in the affected segment.
diagnosis of intervertebral osteochondrosis

Causes of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region

It has been shown that from the age of 20 our vertebrae begin to slowly deteriorate. With age, spinal wear progresses. Due to degenerative processes, there is a decrease in the thickness of the intervertebral disc, which acts as a shock absorber. In addition, abnormal structures appear on the bony edges of adjacent vertebrae: bone spurs, spondylophytes, which reduce range of motion.

Degenerative-dystrophic changes begin in the nucleus pulposus, then spread to the fibrous ring, as well as to other structural elements of the vertebra, causing the appearance of characteristic symptoms.

Due to the loss of water, the nucleus pulposus no longer evenly distributes the vertical load. This negatively affects the fibrous ring. Excessive compression (squeezing) leads to mechanical damage, the appearance of ruptures and cracks. The joints begin to experience excessive stress, which gradually leads to spinal instability and pain.

Thus, the main cause of osteochondrosis is natural aging. However, its development is also facilitated by a combination of several unfavorable factors that increase the likelihood of the disease manifesting. These include:

  • Smoke;
  • Performed surgical interventions on the spine;
  • Injuries to this part of the spine;
  • Curvature of the spine (scoliosis);
  • Weakness of the back muscles;
  • Excess body weight;
  • Increased load on the spine.

It is assumed that the involution (aging) of cartilage and bone tissue of the vertebrae is genetically determined and that progression to a disease state with characteristic symptoms and manifestations occurs under the influence of external and internal factors. Processes may begin earlier if they are preceded by damage (mechanical, inflammatory, etc. ).

Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region

Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine will depend on the stage of the pathological process and existing structural disorders. Unlike other areas of the spine (cervical, lumbar), radicular syndrome and other neurological complications are less typical for the thoracic region. This is explained by the presence of a bone structure in the chest, which limits the displacement and compression of this part of the spine. Most of the time, pain in the thoracic region (dorsalgia or low back pain) is associated with immobilization of the intervertebral joints.

Reference! Thoracic low back pain, or dorsago, in neurology refers to acute, high-intensity pain that occurs in the thoracic spine, often associated with difficulty breathing. The cause of the disease lies in a severe spasm of the back muscles. It cannot be ignored, because. . . Myocardial infarction can begin in a similar way, and frequent low back pain can be associated with serious pathologies in the body.

The pain can last from several hours to several days. As a rule, it is not as intense as with injuries to other parts of the spine, but it is also associated with movement of the spine. In addition, muscle hypertonicity is detected in this area, which can be combined with weakness and numbness in the hands.

The pain can be dull, burning, deep, paroxysmal or constant. It can be felt in the chest, in the heart region and in other organs. Patients describe it as "a stake in the chest", "compression of the chest with a bow", "a knife blow between the shoulder blades". This section is characterized by radiating, encircling pain associated with deep sighs, coughing, and sudden chest movements.

Without treatment, osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is often complicated by intercostal neuralgia. In this case, the burning pain may be localized in the heart region and be confused by the patient with manifestations of cardiac pathology.

thoracic spine pain

Important! If you experience pain in the heart region, do not attempt to make a differential diagnosis on your own. To exclude heart disease and prevent the progression of pathological processes in the spine, it is important not to delay seeing a doctor, not to wait for the pain to go away and not to self-medicate.

Pain can increase with physical activity, bending and psycho-emotional stress. When the extreme vertebrae of this area are affected, pain can radiate to the lower back, sacrum and even buttocks.

Diagnosis of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region

Diagnosis of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region is a multi-stage process. First of all, the doctor will take the history:

  • Find out your medical history;
  • Have any close relatives had spinal diseases?
  • How long ago the symptoms started and how intense they were;
  • What concomitant diseases are there?

A physical examination of the patient is required, including examination of the skin, assessment of postural disorders, and palpation (sensation) of the muscles located near the spine. Neurological tests may be performed to make a diagnosis.

Instrumental diagnostics

Imaging diagnostics allows you to assess the degree of cartilage damage, identify other existing diseases and exclude diseases with similar symptoms. Recommended methods for instrumental diagnosis of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine include:

  • X-ray (spondylography) - provides information about the structure of the bone, the presence of osteophytes, the state of the facet joints;
  • Computed tomography (computed tomography) allows you to examine everything in detail and, if necessary, take measurements, it has advantages over magnetic resonance imaging in diagnosing pathologies of bone structures;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (magnetic resonance imaging) allows you to assess the condition of soft tissues, diagnose inflammatory processes, tumors, spinal hernias, identify pathological changes in cartilage, bones, ligaments, blood vessels and determine the narrowing of the spinal canal. Using magnetic resonance imaging, vascular pathologies and tissue circulation disorders in the thoracic spine are detected.

Medication blocks can also be used for diagnostic purposes. Due to the variety of pain manifestations, there is often a need to carry out additional research to exclude:

  • Angina pectoris;
  • Myocardial infarction;
  • Aortic aneurysms,
  • Cholecystitis,
  • Gastric ulcer;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Oncological diseases, etc.

Treatment methods for thoracic osteochondrosis

therapeutic massage room

Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is a disease that requires complex treatment. In addition to drug treatment to relieve pain, it is important to contact specialists in the field of traumatology and neurology to find out the exact causes of the disturbing symptoms.

Treatment tactics will depend on the severity of the disease. Typically, the first treatment option is conservative therapy, such as physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, heat therapy, and nerve block injections.

Exercise therapy for osteochondrosis of the thoracic region allows you to strengthen the muscles of the back and interscapular region, form a muscular corset and correct posture, provide muscle relaxation and improve blood circulation in this segment of the spine. For osteochondrosis of this area, breathing exercises, bringing the shoulder blades together and rotating the shoulders are useful.

Massage helps to normalize blood supply, lymphatic drainage and activate metabolic processes. It is prescribed outside of an exacerbation, when the patient does not experience severe pain. Various types of medical massage are used: manual (manual), underwater, vacuum.

Manual therapy methods are also popular. Chiropractors work with blockages and clamps in the musculoskeletal system, removing them through a variety of techniques. Acupressure or acupressure can also be performed for acute pain. During it, the doctor, pressing his fingers on certain points with different intensities, has a therapeutic effect on the entire body.

Physiotherapy techniques are quite effective in treating osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine. They help reduce pain, improve blood circulation and strengthen spinal muscles. Between them:

  • Ultrasound therapy;
  • Electrophoresis of medicines;
  • Laser therapy in the spine region;
  • Transcutaneous electrical neuromyostimulation;
  • Exposure to magnetic fields;
  • Electrical impulse therapy.

To enhance the therapeutic effect, a combination of drug and non-drug therapy methods is recommended. Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine can take a long time, but the results will be visible after the first procedures. The main thing is not to delay seeing a doctor and start treatment in the early stages of the disease.

If conservative treatment does not help, surgery may be necessary. Most often, decompression and stabilization operations are performed. They allow you to stop compression of the spinal cord, nerve roots due to hernias, osteophytes or hypertrophied ligaments and fix the affected segment.

After surgical treatment, you will need to wear a special corset for some time. After discharge from the hospital, a course of medical rehabilitation is prescribed.

Treatment of thoracic osteochondrosis at home

Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine at home can be effective if a number of conditions are met. First of all, the diagnosis must be established by a specialist after a complete examination. Treatment methods should also be discussed with a doctor to make sure there are no contraindications in the presence of concomitant pathologies.

The most important and basic thing is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, control your body weight and practice plenty of physical activity. The best way to deal with back pain is to exercise. They will help strengthen the back muscles, improve blood circulation, deal with stress more easily and thus prevent the progression of the disease.

If the condition worsens or there is severe, sharp pain, it is best to lie down and ensure that the spine remains at rest. Thermal treatments and massages help to cope with unpleasant sensations. In any case, home treatment does not replace consultation with a specialist and the implementation of his recommendations. Uncontrolled self-medication can lead to a worsening of the condition and the development of complications.

Which doctor should I contact?

Neurologists and orthopedists treat osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine. They carry out diagnostics, make a diagnosis and select the appropriate treatment. Patients may also need to see a physical therapist and a physical therapist doctor.

If you experience pain in the chest area, you can also consult a therapist. He will analyze the clinical manifestations, prescribe the necessary tests and refer you to a specialist.

Treatment of thoracic osteochondrosis

Doctors at your regional clinic will help you deal with the symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine. Most often, almost every clinic has the necessary modern diagnostic equipment, which allows you to obtain the most accurate information about the condition of the spine and select the most effective treatment method. Experienced specialists of various profiles help patients restore their health in comfortable conditions: neurologists, orthopedists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, therapists.

If necessary, in modern realities it is possible to consult other specialized specialists in the shortest possible time and without queues. Consultants are ready to help if any questions arise. Fill out the feedback form on the Internet and they will definitely call you back.