A thoracic disc prolapse is another way of referring to a herniated disc located in the region of the 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1-12), which form the central portion of the spine.
The relatively rigid thoracic vertebrae – which serve as a base for the ribcage – are less vulnerable to disc prolapse than the more flexible and weight-bearing cervical and lumbar spines. However, thoracic disc prolapse does occur occasionally, normally in association with degenerative disc disease or traumatic spinal injury.
Because the symptoms associated with a prolapsed disc in the thoracic spine can resemble other conditions – including heart, lung, kidney, or gastrointestinal disorders – a thorough diagnosis will be necessary if you experience the following:
- Chest pain
- Upper back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Numbness or tingling below the pinched nerve
- Loss of balance
- Lower body muscle weakness
Should the diagnosis reveal a thoracic prolapsed disc – or even a prolapsed lumbar disc (in the lower back) or a prolapsed cervical disc (in the neck) – the symptoms ordinarily can be managed through non-surgical, or conservative, treatment. This can include physical therapy, exercise, rest, pain medication, and chiropractic manipulation. If chronic pain persists even after weeks or months of conservative treatment, a doctor might suggest surgery as an option.