Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)

What Is the Thoracic Spine?

The thoracic spine is the largest region of the spine. It is also the most stable and least flexible. Because of this, it is less likely to be injured than either the cervical or lumbar spine. 

Thoracic Spine Anatomy

The thoracic spine has 12 vertebrae. The first, t1, is about at the level of the shoulders and collarbone. The lowest, t12, is just above what is commonly thought of as the lower back. 

The 12 thoracic vertebrae serve as attachment points to the 24 ribs: two ribs per vertebrae. A large number of small and large muscles also attach at various thoracic vertebrae. 

Thoracic Spine Conditions

The thoracic spine is at far less risk of injury than the cervical or lumbar spines due to its relative stability. Vertebral fractures–cracks in the vertebral body–can happen at this level of the spine, and herniated discs and stenosis can occur in any region. 

Because so many muscles attach at the thoracic spine, muscle and tendon strains can sometimes be the cause of mid or upper back pain. Additionally, problems with organs in the thoracic cavity–the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, the stomach and others–can sometimes cause radiating pain to the back. 

Thoracic Spine Procedures

Although conditions of the thoracic spine are less common than conditions of the cervical or lumbar spine, that doesn’t mean they are unheard of. We treat conditions of the thoracic spine with the best methods available for each patient, whether that means conservative nonoperative treatment or surgery. Procedures can include: 

  • Kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty–Procedures to repair a cracked vertebral body
  • Laminectomy–A procedure designed to alleviate pressure on nerve roots that involves removing part of a vertebra
  • Microdiscectomy–the removal of the protruding parts of a herniated disc

If you have back pain from any source, request an appointment at Edison Spine Center. We will diagnose the cause of your back pain and develop a treatment plan that works for you and your situation and lifestyle.