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Degenerative Changes of the Thoracic Spine

by
author image Blake Biddulph
Dr. Blake Biddulph received his chiropractic degree from Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas in 2007 and has been practicing as a chiropractic physician in Provo, Utah, ever since. He has a special interest in spinal rehabilitation and treats patients with a variety of neck and back conditions. He has been writing health-related articles and newsletters for several years.
Degenerative Changes of the Thoracic Spine
Doctor explaining spine model to a patient Photo Credit 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

The thoracic spine is the mid-portion of your back and extends from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage. It is made up of 12 thoracic vertebrae, which are separated by soft spongy discs that aid in shock absorption. The thoracic spine has less movement and experiences less stress than any other part of the spine. Because of this fact, it generally has less degeneration than the neck and low back, according to MDguidelines.com. Degenerative changes that do occur here can lead to symptoms of pain, numbness and tingling, and restricted motion. Conservative treatment is often effective at reducing pain and improving mobility.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a process that breaks down the inter-vertebral discs. Each of these discs is comprised of a tough fibrous outer ring called the annulus fibrosis, which contains the soft jellylike center portion called the nucleus pulposus. Through injury, poor posture or age-related degeneration, the annulus dries up and cracks, allowing the nucleus to bulge outside its normal confines. This bulging can put pressure on nearby spinal nerves and cause symptoms of pain, numbness and tingling, and muscle weakness. Symptomatic DDD generally responds well to conservative treatment. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, are helpful because they have both pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Hyperkyphosis

Degenerative Changes of the Thoracic Spine
Hyperkyphosis often occurs in the elderly. Photo Credit portrait of an old woman image by studio vision1 from Fotolia.com

The term, kyphosis describes a normal posterior curved in the spine. The thoracic and sacral regions of the spine normally have a kyphosis to them, while the lumbar and cervical regions have the opposite curves, a lordosis. Hyperkyphosis is an excessive degree to this curve that causes compaction and excessive wear and tear on discs, vertebra and soft tissue. Hyperkyphosis is often seen in the elderly, and can result from several different conditions such as osteoporosis, Scheuermann’s kyphosis and postural roundback. Conservative treatment is aimed at strengthening thoracic extensor muscles and restoring motion to fixated joints, according to the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease process that causes bones to lose mineral density and become fragile or brittle. These brittle bones become very susceptible to fractures and may break with even very minor stresses. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women are four times more likely to get osteoporosis than men. This condition causes progressive degeneration of the bones, but is generally painless in and of itself. Many people do not know they even have the condition until a bonus fractured.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive wear-and-tear form of arthritis. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, it affects the cartilaginous covering of bones in the joints, causing them to wear out quickly. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness and a grinding sound with movement. Again, because of the relatively small amount of movement in the thoracic spine, osteoarthritis is not as common here as in the cervical and lumbar spine.

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References

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