Thoracic Spine

The Thoracic Spine

What is the thoracic spine?

The thoracic spine is located in the upper to the middle area of the back. It connects with the cervical vertebrae, extending down to approximately five inches below the bottom of the shoulder blades in an adult, where it then connects to the vertebrae of the lower spine.

The thoracic spine consists up of twelve vertebrae, and one of its main functions is to give the body stability. The cervical (upper) and the lumbar (lower) spine help the body to maintain its flexibility, but the stability of the thoracic spine plays a major role in holding the body in an upright position and protecting the heart and lungs.

When we consider what is thoracic spine structural elements we notice that many things about this part of the spine make it different from the other sections. In fact, the ribs connect to this portion of the spine. One rib firmly connects on either side of each of the thoracic vertebrae, in this way the rib cage structure and formation allows it to protect other vital organs such as the heart and lungs. The first ten ribs curve to the front of the body, attaching to the sternum. The next two ribs protect the kidneys in the back portion of the body and don’t attach to the front of the body.

The discs between the vertebrae of the thoracic spine work like shock absorbers. They have round shape but are not as thick as those in the other spinal sections. Nevertheless, herniated discs are less common in this area because fewer movement occurs here, and less wear and tear damage occurs.

The spinal canal is the hollow, protective tunnel, through which the spinal cord passes. It is narrower in the thoracic spine than it is in the lumbar or cervical spine. This means the spinal cord is more likely to be injured if one or more of the thoracic vertebrae are damaged or impaired.

There are two major muscles that affect the thoracic spine theses include:

  • Spinalis. The Spinalis is a long muscle that is responsible for posture and spinal movement. The muscle has various ligaments attached to to the thoracic vertebrae.  
  • Longissimus. The Longissimus starts from the middle of the spine and is present on both sides of the spinalis. The longissimus is also a very long muscle of the spine. 

What is thoracic spine pain and what are the issues that can occur with this section of the spine?

The thoracic spine is quite complex and contains bones, nerves, connective tissue, muscles, joints and spinal segments. It is solid and fairly stable, but while a pain in the thoracic spine is not as likely as in other parts of the spine, pain can is not entirely exempt from this region of the spine. Often when severe pain and is experienced in the thoracic region of the spine, it may be related underlying medical or health issues.

  • Muscle pain:  This can be caused by improper posture or irritation of the shoulder or large muscles of the back. It is sometimes called myofascial pain.
  • Joint Dysfunction: This can be caused by a problem where the spine attaches to the ribs.
  • Herniated discs: Herniated discs and degenerative disc disease do not happen so frequently in the middle section of the spine, but they can be a reason for pain in the mid-section of the spine.
  • Arthritis: Arthritic conditions and associated inflammation can cause pressure on a nerve in the thoracic spine. The tissue in the joints can wear thin or bone spurs can form due to arthritis and cause enlargement of the joints.
  • Fractures: Fractures due to bone thinning or osteoporosis sometimes occur in the thoracic spine.
  • Kyphosis or Scoliosis: These are abnormal curvatures of the spine which can sometimes cause pain.

What is thoracic spine diagnosis?

There are several diagnosis procedures to help establish what the cause of the pain is and how to go forward with treatment. The patient's gait posture will be carefully observed as well as any abnormalities related.
Inspection and examination of the spine will include:
  • Disorders that may be localized within the thoracic region
  • The doctor will check for surgical scars and swelling
  • Assesment for deformities such as scoliosis, loss of lumbar lordosis or hyperlordosis as well as deformities such as kyphosis
  • Palpation examination for tenderness over the bones
  • The abdomen of the patent will also undergo examination
  • A rectal examination may be needed to look for signs of "Cauda Equina Syndrome". This could include bowel and bladder dysfunction, lower limb and motor abnormality as well as pain in the patient's legs.
  • The movement will be examined such as shoulders, spine, and hips
Other examinations will include:
  • A neurovascular examination
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Neck examination and inspection
  • Cervical movement

Treatment of pain and symptoms causing discomfort in the thoracic spine

When considering what is thoracic spine pain is about, the treatment that follows is very important after the diagnosis. Seeking treatment for early signs of thoracic pain is best in order to prevent further injury. In most cases patients thoracic pain will resolve on its own, but in other cases depending on the diagnosis, the patient may need treatment and sometimes surgery.
  • Facet joint pathology - may require imaging-guided intra-articular injection.
  • Percutaneous thoracic intervertebral disc nuceoplasty - is surgery done to relieve herniated disc as well as the pain associated.
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Questions & Answers
Q:
What is the best way to treat permanent back and neck pain and stiffness?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Use a telephone headset

Never hold a phone between your shoulder and your ear. Use a headset or other hands-free system to talk on the phone and avoid abusing your neck and spine.

Neck Pain Tips: Exercise your neck muscles

One of the best neck pain tips is using the chin tuck. You can do this often throughout the day. In addition to helping strengthen the muscles that hold the head in alignment over the shoulders, it also helps strengthen the scalene and sub-occipital muscles.

Read more tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

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Q:
What is the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder Pain?
A:

One of the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain is exercises:

Neck Pain Exercises: Neck Extension

  1. To begin this neck pain exercise, sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the palm of your hand on the back of your neck, at the base of your head
  4. Apply slight forward pressure with your hand, while resisting the forward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

Neck pain exercises: Side bend

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place your left hand, palm down, on the left side of your head (around your ear)
  4. Slightly push your head to the right side with your hand, while resisting the sideways motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat 5-10 times
  7. Repeat the neck pain exercises with the other side.

Neck pain exercises: Neck flexion

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the tips of your fingers on your forehead
  4. Slightly push your head backward with your fingers, while resisting the backward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

More exercises here: Neck Pain Exercises

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Temed Holdings
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Q:
How do I reduce the shoulder and neck pain?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Carry weight evenly

Many people make the mistake of carrying a heavy briefcase or their purse on their shoulder or on one side of their body. Doing this causes strain in the muscles and leads to pain.

Remove non-essentials from your briefcase or purse. Consider using a backpack to evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders. If you choose to carry a purse or backpack, keep your shoulders level while carrying it.

Neck Pain Tips: Maintain a proper posture

The most common posture contributing to neck pain is the “head-and-shoulders-forward” posture. In this position, the neck slopes forward, putting the head in front of the shoulders.

In this position, the head pulls the upper back forward also in a slumped position. This places a strain on the entire spinal column.

More tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers