Thoracic Herniated Disc

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Michael P. St. Onge
Marc P. Oliveri

A thoracic herniated disc, also called a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when the outer fibers of the intervertebral disc (the shock-absorbing cushions between each vertebra of the spine) become damaged, and the soft material within, called the nucleus pulposus, ruptures out of its normal space and presses on the spinal nerves that are located very close to the disc.

Herniated discs are less common in the thoracic spine (middle of the back) than in the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). In the thoracic area, there is very little extra space around the spinal cord, so a herniated disc in this area can be very serious.

Disc herniations in the thoracic spine mostly affect people between age 40 and 60. They may result from degenerative disc disease (gradual wear and tear of the disc), from repetitive bending and lifting motions, or from a sudden fall or trauma to the upper back.

The first symptom of a thoracic disc herniation is usually pain which may radiate around to the front of the chest and the stomach area. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs
  • Muscle spasms in one or both legs
  • Difficulty bending and standing erect or sitting
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function
  • Paralysis from the waist down

At Lancaster Orthopedic Group, our spine specialists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of spine injuries and conditions, such as thoracic herniated disc. Your physician will assess and diagnose your injury or condition and recommend the best course of treatment.

Conservative treatment of a thoracic herniated disc includes rest, modification of activities, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, and physical therapy. In severe or non-responsive cases, your physician may recommend surgery.

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