All about osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine: symptoms and treatment

Degenerative processes can occur in one of the parts of the spine or simultaneously affect several segments. The thoracic region is considered less vulnerable, because thanks to the ribs and sternum, it is protected from traumatic injury. Nevertheless, cases of thoracic osteochondrosis still exist and require medical intervention.

Features of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine

As part of the thoracic region, there are twelve vertebrae that connect to the ribs. In addition, the ribs are attached to the sternum. Thanks to this structure, a strong frame is formed in which the organs of the chest are located.

High loads do not have a negative effect on the thoracic vertebrae, and therefore osteochondrosis of this area is diagnosed much less often. Since this segment has a convex shape, an uneven load distribution is observed. The anterior and lateral areas are most affected, which provokes the appearance of osteophytes in these places. Growths rarely appear on the posterior surface.

Thoracic osteochondrosis provokes a change in the structure of the intervertebral discs. Pathology is triggered by drying out and loss of the shock-absorbing properties of the nucleus, while the annulus fibrosus becomes much thinner, and cracks can form on it.

It should be borne in mind that there are no nerve endings in this area. In addition, there are no spinal cord membranes here, and therefore osteochondrosis often does not cause discomfort. The occurrence of such a syndrome can be explained by disorders in the joints connecting the vertebrae and ribs. In addition to discomfort, problems often arise in the functioning of internal organs.

Osteochondrosis provokes such violations:

  • neurological – problems with nerve patency;
  • static – changing the shape of the spine;
  • vascular – impaired functioning of the nerve plexus and vascular spasms.


Pathology can have several degrees of development, which depend on the severity of the destruction:

  • 1 degree. The elasticity and height of the discs decrease, and protrusions, called protrusions , are often formed .
  • 2nd degree. The height of the discs continues to decrease. In addition, they also lose their elasticity. The thoracic region is losing stability, which only complicates the situation. A dangerous complication of the process is the appearance of cracks in the fibrous ring, which is fraught with the formation of a hernia. This degree is characterized by the occurrence of pain syndrome and neurological manifestations.
  • 3 degree. A hernia is formed, which leads to the onset of symptoms of osteochondrosis. All manifestations depend on the size and location of the hernia.
  • 4 degree. The disc loses its shock-absorbing characteristics, in addition, the vertebrae converge. As a result of such processes, the spine loses its mobility, nerves and blood vessels can be pinched. In addition, bone tissue is often destroyed.

The reasons

This form of osteochondrosis occurs as a result of the action of such factors:

  • deficiency of plastic substances;
  • heredity;
  • damage;
  • water scarcity;
  • infectious pathologies;
  • poor nutrition;
  • scoliosis;
  • lack of physical activity;
  • imbalance of hormones;
  • metabolic problems;
  • prolonged stay in a forced position.

Often, thoracic osteochondrosis occurs in those people who are used to moving a little. In addition, it is diagnosed in those who work at a computer for a long time. With this form of the disease, degenerative processes can affect the adjacent parts of the spine. Usually the cervical spine suffers.

Thoracic osteochondrosis is not uncommon among adolescents. The onset of this disease is due to rapid growth and poor posture during study.

Symptoms and signs

The main symptom of the disease is aching pain in the chest and stomach. They can be felt more strongly with movement. Often, discomfort is felt with deep breaths and has a girdling character.

In general, the manifestations of osteochondrosis depend on the characteristics of the human body – in particular, its sensitivity. In women, the manifestations are often more pronounced, since they have all parts of the spine thinner than in men.

The main manifestations of the disease include:

  1. Chest pains that increase after exertion or uncomfortable posture.
  2. Increased discomfort with deep breaths.
  3. Constriction in the chest.
  4. Increased pain when turning the body or bending.
  5. Increased soreness when raising hands.
  6. Pain between the shoulder blades.

All these manifestations are explained by abnormal processes in the spine, but the formation of hernias also provokes manifestations of vascular and neurological disorders. Sometimes chest osteochondrosis leads to the following problems:

  • numbness of the skin;
  • disorders of the digestive system;
  • feeling of coldness in the legs;
  • burning and itching in the limbs;
  • brittle nails;
  • peeling of the skin;
  • discomfort in the region of the heart.

The diagnosis of the disease should be taken very carefully, since its symptoms can resemble the manifestations of angina pectoris, heart attack, pneumonia.

Often, chest osteochondrosis occurs in a chronic form, and the symptoms of the disease are rather weak. With an exacerbation, the manifestations are more intense.

Pain in osteochondrosis

Usually, the discomfort is so severe that the person can catch their breath. In addition, he may have a feeling of tightness between the shoulder blades. The patient manages to clearly identify the localization of pain. Discomfort often spreads throughout the chest, which can be explained by pinched nerve endings.

During palpation of the spine, you can easily find a focus of pain. Moreover, any change in the position of the body leads to increased discomfort.

Cough with chest osteochondrosis

Quite often, this form of the disease is accompanied by a severe dry cough. In the thoracic region, there are many centers of the autonomic system responsible for the work of internal organs. If the trachea is malfunctioning, a pronounced cough occurs. In addition, problems in the functioning of the vessels that supply the lungs can lead to the development of this symptom.

In order not to confuse osteochondrosis with pneumonia, you need to know that inflammation of the lungs is characterized by an increase in temperature and signs of intoxication of the body. Spinal problems are not accompanied by similar symptoms.

Dorsago and dorsalgia syndromes

The term ” dorsago ” means a sharp pain in the chest. They have a sharp character and appear after a long stay in one position. The attack provokes respiratory disturbances and increases with movements of the upper body.

The pain may resemble symptoms of intercostal neuralgia, as it often spreads along the ribs towards the sternum. Sometimes felt in the shoulder blades. Such manifestations can be confused with myocardial infarction. However, in the case of dorsago, there are no pathological changes on the cardiogram, and taking nitroglycerin does not improve the patient’s well-being.

Dorsalgia is a slight pain sensation in the area of ​​the affected discs. Such a violation develops gradually and lasts for a rather long time – about 2-3 weeks. The pain increases with bending or taking strong breaths. Often, a person feels a lack of air. The discomfort increases at night, but may disappear after a short walk.

The upper dorsalgia is accompanied by pain in the neck and chest, while the lower one is characterized by discomfort in the chest and lower back. Such dorsalgia should not be confused with pneumonia, since these diseases have similar symptoms. However, pneumonia is complemented by an increase in body temperature, coughing, and shortness of breath.


This disease can provoke the development of quite serious problems in the body:

  • heart pathology;
  • cholecystitis;
  • protrusion and hernia;
  • gastritis;
  • spinal cord compression;
  • disorders in the intestines;
  • dyspnea;
  • intercostal neuralgia;
  • kidney and liver problems;
  • pancreatic pathology.

In addition, chest osteochondrosis often provokes prostate adenoma and impotence in men. In women, the disease is fraught with the development of mastopathy or infertility. To prevent the occurrence of dangerous complications, osteochondrosis must be treated – otherwise there is a risk of disability.


To make an accurate diagnosis, a specialist examines and interviews the patient. However, it is possible to speak with confidence about the development of osteochondrosis only after performing tomography or radiography. The images will show the pathology of the intervertebral discs and the appearance of growths.


To exclude other violations, it is worth conducting an ultrasound examination, electrocardiogram, gastroscopy. The choice of therapy tactics is influenced by the presence of concomitant pathologies and the degree of osteochondrosis.

How to cure

To cope with the manifestations of chest osteochondrosis, conservative therapy is sufficient . Surgical intervention is rarely indicated. Usually, the operation is performed when the spinal cord is compressed by an intervertebral hernia.

With an exacerbation of the pathology, the doctor prescribes bed rest for several days. For the treatment of pathology used:

  • muscle relaxants;
  • pain relievers;
  • venotonics;
  • muscle relaxation drugs;
  • vasoregulatory agents;
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If the roots of the spinal cord are pinched, novocaine blockade is indicated . During the period of remission, you need to do therapeutic exercises every day . Physiotherapy methods give an excellent effect . Laser treatment, acupuncture, traction, magnetopuncture are especially useful . Good results can be achieved with spa treatment.

Chest osteochondrosis is rarely diagnosed, but it can provoke the development of unpleasant symptoms.

The danger of the disease lies in the threat of the development of dangerous complications. To prevent this from happening, you need to contact a specialist at an early stage of the disease – only in this case the therapy will be really effective.


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