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Anatomy of the Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine is composed of twelve vertebrae (T1-T12) located in the mid-back region, extending from the base of the neck to the abdomen. It plays a crucial role in supporting the upper body and protecting the spinal cord. Each thoracic vertebra is connected to a pair of ribs, forming the rib cage, which protects vital organs. The spinal cord runs through the central canal of the vertebrae, transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

Causes and Risk Factors

Thoracic myelopathy can be caused by a nervous system disease. However, there are several other possible causes of thoracic myelopathy, including:

  • Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal in the thoracic region, often due to aging, can compress the spinal cord
  • Herniated Disc: A thoracic disc herniation can press against the spinal cord
  • Trauma: Injuries from accidents or falls can cause immediate compression of the thoracic spinal cord
  • Tumors: Both benign and malignant growths can compress the spinal cord

In addition, certain conditions and lifestyle factors may increase the risk of developing thoracic myelopathy, such as:

  • Age-related degenerative changes
  • Previous spinal injury or surgery
  • Genetic predisposition to spinal problems
  • Poor posture and body mechanics


Symptoms of thoracic myelopathy vary based on the severity and location of the compression but may include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the mid-back area
  • Radiating pain around the rib cage
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs or torso
  • Muscle weakness, particularly in the lower extremities
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Trouble with fine motor skills
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction in severe cases

Diagnostic Process

At Excel Health, diagnosing thoracic myelopathy involves a comprehensive evaluation. A physician will review the patient’s medical history and symptoms and conduct a thorough physical examination. Neurological assessments may also be performed to test reflexes, muscle strength, and sensory perception. Advanced imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans are crucial for confirming the diagnosis and identifying the specific cause of the spinal cord compression.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

Excel Health’s approach to treating thoracic myelopathy starts with non-surgical methods. Conservative care options for thoracic myelopathy may include:

  • Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises and stretches can help improve strength, flexibility, and alignment to alleviate symptoms.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter or prescription medications may be prescribed to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and correcting posture may reduce stress on the spine.
  •  Assistive Devices: Braces, canes, or walkers may be recommended to assist with mobility and balance.

Surgical Intervention

In more severe cases of thoracic myelopathy, surgery may be necessary. At Excel Health, we offer advanced, minimally invasive surgical procedures to decompress the spinal cord, aiming to alleviate symptoms while minimizing recovery time. The type of procedure will depend on the cause and location of the spinal cord compression. Surgical options are carefully evaluated and discussed with each patient, ensuring an informed decision that aligns with their overall health goals.

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