Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)

The thoracic spine, located in the middle section of the vertebral column, is a critical yet often overlooked region that plays a key role in the overall stability and function of the spine.

It consists of twelve vertebrae (T1 to T12) and serves as an attachment point for the ribs, forming a protective cage around vital organs. Despite its robustness, the thoracic spine can be susceptible to various conditions that can affect your quality of life.

Our clinic offers expert care for all forms of thoracic spine conditions, employing the latest research, non-invasive therapies, and when indicated, surgical techniques, to provide you with the best possible outcomes.

Lumbar/ Thoracic Spine Videos

Common Thoracic Spine Conditions

  • Overview: Thoracic spondylosis refers to the degenerative changes in the thoracic vertebrae and intervertebral discs, leading to stiffness and back pain.
  • Causes: Aging is the predominant cause, though lifestyle factors like repetitive stress or previous injuries can exacerbate the condition.
  • Symptoms: Common symptoms include chronic pain in the mid-back and stiffness that can limit movement. In severe cases, nerve or spinal cord compression can cause symptoms in other areas of the body.
  • Risks: Advanced age, repetitive torso movements, and previous thoracic injuries or surgeries increase the risk.
  • Treatment: Conservative treatments such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and lifestyle modifications are usually the first line of defense. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be considered to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Overview: This condition occurs when the inner core of a thoracic disc protrudes through a tear in its outer ring, potentially compressing the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  • Causes: It can be caused by acute injury, degenerative disc disease, or sometimes, idiopathic reasons.
  • Symptoms: The symptoms include mid-back pain, numbness, tingling or weakness that can radiate around the rib cage to the front of the body.
  • Risks: Factors such as repetitive strain, traumatic injuries, and a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of a herniated disc.
  • Treatment: Treatment often begins conservatively with medications, physical therapy, and injections. In cases where conservative treatments fail or neurological deficits progress, surgical options like thoracic decompression may be considered.
  • Overview: This condition involves the narrowing of the spinal canal in the thoracic region, which can compress the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Causes: Degenerative changes in the spine, such as those from arthritis, are the most common causes. Less frequently, congenital defects or spinal tumors can also cause stenosis.
  • Symptoms: Symptoms may include pain, weakness, or numbness in the back, legs, or bowel and bladder dysfunction in severe cases.
  • Risks: Aging is the most significant risk factor, along with a history of spinal injury or congenital spinal deformity.
  • Treatment: Non-surgical treatments include medication, physical therapy, and spinal injections. Surgery might be necessary to relieve severe symptoms or restore function, involving procedures like laminectomy or foraminotomy.
  • Overview: This condition arises when a nerve in the thoracic spine is compressed or irritated.
  • Causes: Causes include herniated discs, bone spurs, and spinal stenosis.
  • Symptoms: The primary symptom is radiating pain along the affected nerve, which can manifest around the chest or upper abdomen, often mistaken for shingles or heart problems.
  • Risks: Risk factors include activities that cause excessive twisting or compression of the thoracic spine.
  • Treatment: Initial treatments are typically non-invasive, such as physical therapy and medications. If these are ineffective, surgical interventions may be required to relieve nerve compression.
  • Overview: These fractures typically occur in the vertebral bodies of the thoracic spine and are often a result of bone thinning (osteoporosis).
  • Causes: The primary cause is osteoporosis, though traumatic injuries can also result in compression fractures in younger individuals.
  • Symptoms: Acute back pain that worsens with movement is common, along with a decrease in spinal mobility.
  • Risks: Advanced age, osteoporosis, and certain cancer treatments that weaken the bone increase the risk significantly.
  • Treatment: Treatment usually includes pain management, physical therapy, and activities to improve bone density. Severe cases may require vertebral augmentation procedures like kyphoplasty.

Why Choose Us?​

We understand that dealing with thoracic spine issues can be daunting.

We are dedicated to quality patient care and optimising health outcomes, rooted in the latest advanced, non-invasive and surgical treatment options.

To achieve this, we employ a best-practice, patient-centric, multidisciplinary model of care, incorporating a wide range of allied health professionals and specialist physicians in your care where necessary, coordinated by your lead neurosurgeon, Dr Raoul Pope.

We offer a compassionate environment where you are listened to and respected, where a comprehensive diagnosis of your underlying condition is conducted, and a tailored treatment plan is developed in order to reduce or eliminate your pain and dysfunction, and improve your quality of life.

Book an Appointment

If you are experiencing symptoms or concerns related to a thoracic spine condition, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in preventing further complications and enhancing recovery.

Dr Raoul Pope is a highly experienced Neurosurgeon and sub-specialised Spine Surgeon with 20+ years of experience. He consults and operates across Sydney.

Dr Pope completed a sub-specialised, dedicated, international training fellowship in complex neurosurgical and orthopaedic spine surgery at a recognised, high-volume Centre of Excellence in spine surgery, in Canada.

He offers telehealth consultations and welcomes both private and public patients.