06 Nov Thoracic Herniated Disc Treatment Protocols
Herniation of a thoracic spine disc is a very serious problem. The thoracic spine consists of the 12 spinal bones (vertebrae) which make up the middle portion of the back and there is very little extra space around the spinal cord in this area of the spine. Thoracic herniated disk treatment needs to be sought and initiated as soon as the affected person experiences signs and symptoms associated with this pathology.
Causes and Clinical Picture of Herniated Thoracic Disc
The discs between the spinal vertebrae are quarter-sized cushions which consist of a soft and gel-like substance. This substance is protected with a thick tissue which makes up the outer portion of the disk. The disks’ functions are to act as “shock-absorbers” so that the vertebrae don’t touch each other, that there’s no injury to these bones, and to allow mobility in the spine. When the thick outer layer of the disc tears, the gel-like material leaks out of it and this is regarded as herniated material. This rupture of the disc can be caused by too much pressure being applied to the vertebral column through injury or trauma.
If the disc ruptures and the gel substance herniate from the tissue, then this can either compress on the nerves coming out of the spinal column, or the chemical compounds in the material can irritate the nerve roots. When this happens, the affected individual will experience issues such as back pain, pain in the area that is supplied by the affected nerve(s), numbness and/or weakness of said area, and increased reflexes and spasticity of the involved anatomy. If the spinal cord is involved in the area where the disc ruptures, then total paralysis of the legs may occur.
Not everyone with a thoracic herniated disc requires surgery to fix the problem and doctors can recommend conservative therapies to manage problems caused by the condition.
Pain medication may include acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and narcotics such as codeine. The latter is reserved for severe pain due to their ability to potentially lead to drug abuse.
Thoracic disc herniation exercises can be recommended by a physical therapist who will teach affected patients techniques and methods to increase the strength in their backs. This helps to offer better support to the spinal column.
Steroid medications can also be injected into a layer of the spine called the epidural space in order to reduce inflammation and irritation to the nerve roots caused by the leaked disc material.
If these options are ineffective, then thoracic herniated disc surgery may be suggested by the patient’s specialist orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon. The procedure is called a laminotomy where an opening is made in the back of the vertebrae, by removing a piece of the bone, to allow more space in the spinal canal for the compressed nerves. Another possible surgical procedure is called a microdiscectomy where the surgeon removes the ruptured disc through a small incision made in the back using microscopic technology.