Thoracic spinal osteochondrosis: symptoms and treatment of the disease

Thoracic osteochondrosis is rare in clinical practice. Previously, it was diagnosed mainly in the elderly, but now it is more common in patients under 35 years of age. More pathological develops in women than in men. This degenerative-dystrophic disease is difficult to diagnose because severe symptoms appear only in the later stages.

In addition, the symptoms of this disorder can be easily confused with the symptoms of lung and heart dysfunction. This disease cannot be left untreated as it can lead to curvature of the spine, the development of persistent pain syndrome and other complications that can adversely affect human life.

What is thoracic osteochondrosis?

causes of thoracic osteochondrosis

In the International Classification of Diseases, this pathological condition has an ICD-10 code - M42. Thoracic osteochondrosis is less common than cervical or sacral. This is not a coincidence. Because this part of the body has a rigid rib cage, this part of the spine is less physiologically mobile.

There are more cervical and lumbar vertebrae in the thoracic region, but the discs are thinner in this part of the spine. These anatomical features help to reduce the mobility of this part of the spine, so it is less prone to injury.

However, osteochondrosis can develop when exposed to a number of negative factors. Initially, there are signs of damage to a disc, but in the future there may be other elements in the pathological process. As the disease progresses, the bone elements and the ligaments and muscles that support the spine are damaged.

Degenerative-dystrophic processes in the thoracic region grow more slowly. It often takes years for protrusions and tears to form before the fibrous rings of damaged discs are so destroyed.

Severe clinical manifestations occur after a critical decrease in the height of the discs and the capture of the roots. This can lead not only to short-term attacks of pain in the dorsago, ie the thoracic region, but also to a violation of the innervation of the internal organs. Compressed nerve roots stretching in this area are more difficult to treat.

developmental reasons

In most cases, spinal problems do not appear suddenly. A disease such as osteochondrosis is no exception in this regard. This pathology affecting the intervertebral discs is the result of long-term degenerative-dystrophic processes. In most cases, it is not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of the disorder. Factors that can cause the appearance of thoracic osteochondrosis are:

stages of development of thoracic osteochondrosis
  • congenital or acquired deformities of the spine;
  • overweight;
  • overload of the spine during pregnancy;
  • infectious diseases;
  • hypothermia;
  • metabolic diseases;
  • hormonal disorders;
  • chronic stress;
  • bad habits;
  • connective tissue diseases;
  • dysplastic changes;
  • posture disorders;
  • unhealthy diet;
  • injuries.

Detraining has a negative effect on the condition of the spine. People who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to suffer from thoracic osteochondrosis. In addition, age-related changes and slowing of metabolism observed in patients over 55 years of age lead to the development of these disorders.

Genetic predisposition may be a factor in the development of pathology. The genes that contribute to the development of osteochondrosis of the breast have not yet been identified, but it is more common in people with a family history of the disease.

signs and symptoms

The clinic of this pathological condition depends on the stage of the process of neglect, the degree of damage to the intervertebral disc and the age of the patient. There are no specific symptoms in the early stages of development, but general symptoms may occur from time to time. Often, in the early stages of development, the disease manifests itself only with the onset of cold weather or after physical exertion. Early manifestations of the development of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region include:

  • fatigue;
  • back pain and pressure;
  • muscle spasms;
  • cold extremities.

As the disease progresses, the patient's condition worsens. Painful chest pains appear. They often occur in the background of prolonged stay in a situation or with sudden movements. In addition, severe pain syndrome may appear when lifting weights. Torso twisting can cause increased pain. Osteochondrosis is also indicated by dull pain in the shoulder blades.

Often, osteochondrosis of the thoracic region is accompanied by the appearance of an abnormal curve. In severe cases, the patient may develop a kidney. In addition, the disease can cause the appearance of pain during deep breathing and exhalation.

When the nerve roots are compressed, there is often a feeling of numbness in the upper body and skin. Due to the disruption of innervation and blood circulation, there is a feeling of gas on the skin. Feet and hands are always cold. There may be sensory disturbances in the extremities. In advanced cases, the disease can cause symptoms of damage to other organs as a result of impaired innervation. It is possible in the final stages of the process:

Signs and symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis
  • intercostal neuralgia;
  • fecal diseases;
  • swelling;
  • heartburn and nausea;
  • itching and burning in the legs;
  • disorders of the reproductive system;
  • asthma attacks.

As a pathology develops, a person's ability to work decreases. Physical activity is minimized. This disease may create the preconditions for the development of serious complications in the future. The risk of pathological fractures increases. The curvature of the spine leads to compression of the organs located in the chest.

In an unfavorable course, the disease continues with a violation of the heart muscle and a decrease in lung volume. Often, such severe complications are accompanied by widespread osteochondrosis, which affects several intervertebral discs at once.

Rates of thoracic osteochondrosis

The current classification divides the development period of this pathological condition into 4 degrees. Each of them is characterized by a number of changes in the structure of the intervertebral discs, vertebrae and other elements that make up this part of the spine.

First degree

In the first degree of pathology, there is no obvious clinical manifestation, but specific changes in the structure of the intervertebral discs can already be detected with a comprehensive diagnosis. The fibrous ring, which receives less moisture and nutrients, gradually loses its elasticity. Often, micro-cracks appear in the tissues where the nuclear pulp is compressed. The discs can be transferred to the spinal canal. There are protrusions. There are no signs of rupture of the annulus fibrosis.

Second degree

As the disease progresses to the second degree, the first clinical manifestations are observed. Patients sometimes experience pain and other neurological symptoms. During special diagnostics, signs of a decrease in the elasticity of the tissues that make up the ring fibrosis can be detected. The cartilage becomes very thin, which increases the risk of developing a hernia. There is a decrease in the height of the intervertebral discs due to abnormal mobility of the spinal column structures.

Third degree

In the third stage, the changes in the structure of the discs are so obvious that the first signs of the development of kyphosis or scoliosis appear. Often, at this stage of the process, the damaged ring fibrosis breaks. This phenomenon is accompanied by the protrusion of the nuclear pulposus from the disc. A hernia can compress nerve roots or the spinal cord, depending on the direction of the bulge. Severe pain and neurological diseases occur. Increases the mobility of the spine, which leads to injuries and fractures.

Fourth degree

With the transition to the fourth stage of pathology, the structure of the intervertebral discs is so damaged that they do not perform the function of cushioning. Ring fibrosis and nuclear pulp lose their elasticity. These elements begin to ossify. Due to the impaired damping function of the discs, the spine suffers, which carries a lot of load.

Osteophytes, or bone growths, begin to grow rapidly at the edges of the vertebrae adjacent to the damaged disc. The surrounding ligaments are involved in the pathological process. They lose their elasticity and no longer support the spine properly. In addition, at this stage in the development of the pathological process, the function of the muscular apparatus is impaired.


When signs of development of this disorder appear, the patient should consult a neurologist and orthopedic surgeon. First, the doctor conducts an external examination and collects a medical history. Frequent laboratory tests for the diagnosis of this disease include blood and urine tests. X-rays are taken to find out if there are any defects in the spinal structure. This research shows:

  • lowering disk height;
  • rough edges of elements;
  • hernia;
  • changes in the vertebral bodies;
  • forming osteophytes, etc.

A discography is assigned to clarify defects in the structure of a disk. This study allows to determine the uneven contours of the pulposus nucleus, to assess the degree of destruction of the discs and the decrease in tissue density. CT and MRI are often done for better visualization. Given that the clinical manifestations of thoracic osteochondrosis are similar to the symptoms of coronary heart disease, electrocardiography is often prescribed to differentiate these conditions.

Treatment options

This pathological condition requires complex treatment. First of all, patients are selected drugs that help to eliminate the symptomatic manifestations and improve the nutrition of the intervertebral discs. Drug treatment should be supplemented with physiotherapy and sports therapy. In addition, you can use some folk remedies. In addition, it is recommended that you follow a certain diet.


In case of severe pain syndrome, the patient is advised to follow bed rest. This reduces the intensity of the pain. Analgesics and NSAIDs are often prescribed to relieve anxiety. If the pain syndrome is very intense, blockage may be required. Glucocorticosteroids are often prescribed to relieve pain in this disease.

Chondroprotectors are prescribed to improve the saturation of the intervertebral discs with food and water. In some cases, antispasmodics and muscle relaxants are prescribed in short courses. These medications help relieve muscle spasms. If necessary, diuretics are prescribed to relieve soft tissue edema. The patient needs B vitamins to improve the condition of the nerve endings that are subject to compression.

Physiotherapy and massage

Physical therapy and massage are the most important components of osteochondrosis treatment, but they can only be used after the symptoms have been suppressed with medication. Properly selected exercises help to improve pulmonary ventilation and strengthen the muscular corset that supports the spine.

First, all the necessary exercises should be learned under the supervision of a training therapist. In the future, the patient can train at home. People with this condition may be advised to take lessons in the pool.

Massage helps to relieve muscle hypertension and improve soft tissue nutrition. Procedures should be performed by a specialist to avoid harm. In most cases, a classic massage is performed, which involves successive rubbing, smoothing and compression of the problem area. Acupressure and segmental massage can be of great benefit. These methods affect the pain points. They help improve blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. In most cases, it is enough for patients to perform procedures 2-3 times a week.


This method involves placing needles in areas of the patient's body. This method allows you to quickly eliminate muscle spasms and pain. Acupuncture procedures should be performed by a specialist in this field. If a specialist does this, the procedure will be almost painless. Acupuncture is contraindicated for people suffering from oncological diseases, mental illness. The use of this method for the treatment of osteochondrosis in the presence of severe inflammatory processes is not recommended.

Manual therapy

Manual therapy helps to restore the correct anatomical position of the vertebrae. In addition, this method helps to reduce the intensity of pain and muscle spasms. This effect helps to restore the intestinal tract. Such procedures can delay the development of this pathological condition. The duration of the manual therapy course is chosen individually for the patient.

Post-isometric relaxation technique

methods of treatment of thoracic osteochondrosis

Post-isometric relaxation procedures are a special technique that involves stretching and then relaxing all the muscles around the spine.

Such exercises should be performed under the supervision of a specialist who can assess the accuracy of movement and the severity of muscle tension. This method allows you to quickly relieve pain and restore normal muscle and joint function.

Folk remedies

Osteochondrosis cannot be treated with folk remedies alone, as this approach can aggravate the disease. In addition to traditional treatments, it is good to use various recipes based on herbs and other natural ingredients. Before using it, you should consult a doctor about the appropriateness of the use of this or that folk remedy.

Celery Root

Properly cooked celery root is believed to help saturate cartilage with food and water. To prepare this product, 1 root should be finely chopped and 1 liter of boiling water should be poured. You need to insist the composition for at least 8 hours. After this time, strain the product and take 1 tsp. 3 times a day before meals.

Sunflower root

A source made from sunflower root is often used to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. To prepare this product you will need about 1 cup of chopped herbal ingredients, pour 3 liters of water. The mixture should boil for 3-5 minutes. The agent should then be cooled and taken in the form of tea for a few days. You can add honey to improve the taste of the drink. It is better to keep the rest of the drug in a thermos.

Home Ointment

A simple homemade ointment can be used to rub with osteochondrosis. To prepare this product, you need to melt about 150 g of lard in a water bath. Then add 2 tbsp. l. natural wax.

The composition should be boiled for at least 20 minutes. Then add 1 tablespoon to the heated mixture. l. fir oil. The product needs to be boiled for another 20 minutes. Finally, add 1 tablespoon to the mixture at least 2-3 minutes before removing the container from the heat. l. ammonia. The finished composition should be distributed in jars. Store homemade ointment in the refrigerator.

Nutrition for thoracic osteochondrosis

Patients suffering from osteochondrosis of the thoracic region need a balanced diet. Adequate amounts of rich foods should be included in the diet. Fish, mixed meat, etc. It is advisable to eat foods that contain large amounts of chondroitin, including. It is important to include fermented dairy products, vegetables and fruits in the diet. Food should be steamed or cooked. Oily and fried foods should be avoided. It is advisable to divide dishes into small portions, but often. This will avoid overeating.

Complications: what to do?

It is desirable to minimize activity during the acute phase of the disease. If possible, you should avoid poses that exacerbate the pain syndrome. First aid for exacerbation of osteochondrosis includes the use of drugs that reduce the severity of edema, inflammation and pain. The patient is advised to rest in bed. It is advisable to follow a frugal diet during this period. You can start exercise therapy and physiotherapy only after eliminating the symptoms.


Now this disease can be treated only in the early stages of development. Late-diagnosis therapy aims to relieve symptoms and improve spinal mobility. In some cases, surgical treatment is required. With an integrated approach to therapy, a person suffering from this pathology can lead a full-fledged lifestyle without experiencing pain and other neurological disorders.


To prevent the development of this pathological condition, it is recommended not to lift weights suddenly. You should always dress appropriately for the weather to avoid hypothermia. In addition, to prevent osteochondrosis, it is necessary to combat hypodynamics and monitor posture. As part of the prevention of this pathology, it is recommended to eat properly and monitor your weight carefully.