Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease

The disc is a cartilage, gristle like material that sits between your vertebral bodies in all parts of your spine. The disc acts like a cushion and also allows flexibility in your spine.  The disc can wear over time as we age or earlier if it is injured.  As it wears, or degenerates, the space between the vertebral bodies is reduced.

Causes

Degenerative disc disease can result from trauma (either acute or chronic/repetitive), infection, or the natural processes of aging.

Symptoms

Thoracic disc degeneration can be a cause of upper or mid back pain. If the disc is severely degenerated, bone spurs can form and limit the mobility of the thoracic spine.  The spurs may cause narrowing of the spinal canal and impinge on the spinal cord. If the compression on the spinal cord is severe, it can cause numbness and tingling and possible weakness in in the legs.

Treatment

Procedural treatment for thoracic disc disease can include cortisone injections under imaging guidance via a transforaminal or interlaminar approach.  The location of the injection is decided by the distribution of symptoms and imaging findings.  Regenerative injections including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are also being used experimentally to provide a healthier environment to promote healing in the thoracic region.  Some physicians will inject material into the disc itself.

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