What Is Thoracic Radiculopathy?
Your thoracic spine serves as a foundation for your ribcage, which protect your vital organs. But it does more than that, too. Its purpose includes:
- Housing your spinal cord, a complex cylinder of nerves
- Acting your nervous system superhighway, sending and receiving electrical nerve signals between your brain and the rest of your body
- Controlling body motor functions
Nerve roots pass between the vertebrae in your spine to facilitate all these functions. They split off from your spinal cord to reach almost every place in your body, bringing sensations and control. Thoracic radiculopathy is a condition that occurs when nerve roots in your mid-back or thoracic spine get pinched or damaged. Radiculopathy is more common in your neck or in your lower back, but it still can devastate your life due to the pain.
How Does Thoracic Radiculopathy Occur?
Radiculopathy refers to a compressed nerve. The spinal nerves that pass out of the long thoracic section of your spine from your spinal cord control many of your body’s functions. These root nerves provide sensation and motor control to your:
- Internal organs
The length and complexity of your thoracic spine make those nerve roots susceptible to injury or damage. If anything — bones, tendon, muscle, disc material or tumor — compresses on a nerve root, it can disrupt its function. This causes a pinched nerve in your mid-back, also known as thoracic radiculopathy. The result of this compression is neurological problems and pain, among other issues.
What Are the Symptoms of Thoracic Radiculopathy?
Your symptoms may vary, depending on where in your spine the radiculopathy occurred and which nerves are affected. Some of the common symptoms of radiculopathy in the thoracic spine include:
- A burning or shooting pain in your ribs on the side
- Localized back pain and tenderness at the site of the pinched nerve
- Numbness and tingling from your neck to the back of your shoulder and chest
- Pain wrapping around to the front of your body
- Weakness or loss of reflexes in your arms or legs
- Pain while you’re sitting
- Pain that flares up after instense activity, but eases after resting
In extreme cases, you may find that you can’t bend backward or sideways, at least in one direction, toward the affected side. You also have trouble when trying to turn or twist your trunk. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit a spine specialist as soon as you can. Even if you aren’t diagnosed with thoracic radiculopathy, you may have another condition, such as myelopathy or a disc herniation.
What Causes Thoracic Radiculopathy?
Any changes to the tissues surrounding the nerve roots exiting your spinal column can cause radiculopathy in the thoracic spine. These changes typically occur due to:
- Degenerative joint disease in your neck or in your lower back
- Degenerative disc diseasein your upper spine or lower spine
- A herniated disc in your mid-back
- Trauma caused by an injury
- A viral infection or inflammation
- Connective tissue disease
- A metastatic tumor
Additionally, you may be more susceptible to have thoracic radiculopathy in your lifetime if certain risk factors apply to you. These risk factors include:
- Age, as the older you get, the more wera and tear your spine experiences
- Family history, since if those close to you suffer from radiculopathy, you’re more likely to get it too
- Repetitive movements over time
- Poor posture
- Spinal abnormalities, such as scoliosis
- Conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
What’s an Effective Thoracic Radiculopathy Treatment?
During your consultation, Dr. Skovrlj performs an extensive physical exam, takes your medical history and listens to you describe your symptoms. If necessary, further diagnostic tests include x-rays, an MRI CT scan or an electromyography. After he reaches a diagnosis of thoracic radiculopathy, the doctor recommends the most suitable treatment. Non-inveasive thoracic radiculopathy treatment options include:
- Medications, including opioid medicines, muscle relaxants or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Ice and heat therapy
- Injectable steroids
- A soft cervical collar
- Weight loss strategies
- Physical therapy
If conservative treatments don’t work, Dr. Skovrlj may recommend the best surgical procedures. He relies on minimally invasive spine surgery to reduce the pressure on the nerve root. Options include:
- Endoscopic decompression
- Selective endoscopic discectomy
- Spinal cord stimulator implantation
- Endoscopic foraminotomy
- Minimally invasive laminectomy
- IDET intradiscal electrothermal therapy
Thoracic radiculopathy can turn your life upside down, but Dr. Skovrlj has the expertise to help. At NU-Spine in Edison, NJ, he uses the latest thoracic radiculopathy treatments to get you back to your normal daily life without the pain. Contact the practice today for long-term solutions to your pain.
He uses multiple treatment solutions to suit individual diagnosis. Our spinal medicine facility has the latest diagnostic technology and spinal specialists to handle all kinds of spinal problems, including thoracic radiculopathy.