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Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease

Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease

What is Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease?

There are 12 intervertebral discs between the bones (vertebrae) in the middle of your back (thoracic spine).

Intervertebral discs are tough and fibrous, acting as shock absorbers for your spine and allowing your back the flexibility to bend and twist.

Thoracic degenerative disc disease occurs when those discs wear down, lose hydration (fluid) and elasticity, causing pain and discomfort.

Sometimes tiny cracks and tears can appear in the discs. They can also collapse or become inflamed.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease?

Although the cause of thoracic degenerative disc disease is unknown, it seems to be associated with aging as your intervertebral discs degenerate naturally due to regular wear and tear.

Risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing it include:

  • Increasing age
  • Trauma or injury to your back
  • Repetitive strain to your back, such as a job requiring frequent heavy lifting
  • Overloading your back, such as years of carrying heavy things on your shoulders
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged sitting and inactivity
  • Poor posture
  • Musculoskeletal imbalance, such as scoliosis

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease?

Everyone experiences some level of degeneration in their intervertebral discs over time, but not everyone will experience symptoms. 

If they do, symptoms of thoracic degenerative disc disease typically include:

  • Dull pain in your mid back
  • Stabbing pain after strenuous activity or strain on your back
  • Increased pain with movement, such as twisting or bending
  • Difficulty moving and decreased range of motion
  • Muscle tension or spasms
  • A sharp, stabbing pain or weakness and tingling that radiates into the shoulders, arms or hands, known as thoracic radiculopathy

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How is Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease Treated?

Mild thoracic degenerative disc disease can be treated at home or in a clinical setting. 

To get pain under control, you can:

  • Rest your back
  • Apply heat and cold therapy
  • Avoid activities that cause pain or put stress on your back
  • If needed, take anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Advil or Aleve

Moderate to severe levels of thoracic degenerative disc disease should be treated in a clinical setting. 

Physiotherapy for Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain, regaining strength, and increasing joint mobility, function, and quality of life. 

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.

Depending on the cause and severity of your thoracic degenerative disc disease, physiotherapy treatment can include:

  • Strengthening and range of motion exercises
  • Personalized exercise plan
  • Active stretching
  • Functional retraining and activity modification
  • Patient education

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Can Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease Go Away on Its Own?

Yes, mild cases of thoracic degenerative disc disease can resolve itself after home treatment. However, pain is likely to recur without ongoing activity modification or proper exercise. 

You may want to consult a physiotherapist for a custom treatment plan to address your unique concerns.

Can You Prevent Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degeneration of your intervertebral discs is a natural part of aging, but you can take the following steps to avoid it becoming painful:

  • Exercise regularly, including stretching (regular exercise increases the flow of nutrients and blood to the spine and decreases pressure on the intervertebral discs)
  • Avoid staying in one position for too long
  • Practice good posture
  • Wear orthotics for proper joint alignment
  • Use a properly supportive pillow and mattress
  • Use an ergonomic chair at work and home
  • Maintain a healthy weight (which reduces stress on the facet joints in the spine)
  • Eat a non-inflammatory diet (avoid sugar, and processed and refined foods)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Quit smoking

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease Today

Concerned about symptoms of thoracic degenerative disc disease? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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