Diagnosis and treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine

Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine

Chest osteochondrosis is a common degenerative disease. There are specific symptoms of chest osteochondrosis, indicating the development of the pathology. In the initial stage, the discomfort does not bother the patient much, so there is no rush to seek professional help. Over time, the symptoms worsen, forcing the patient to go to a doctor where neglected pathology is found. You need to know what early symptoms of osteochondrosis are and what treatment methods are most effective.

What is chest osteochondrosis and how it occurs

Osteochondrosis of the thoracic region is characterized by destructive-dystrophic processes in the middle section of the spine. The destruction is located between the 8th and 19th vertebrae. Accurate diagnostic tests should be performed to determine which vertebrae are affected. Osteochondrosis of the thoracic region is often accompanied by frightening complications, including prolapse or hernia. Without complications, the disease is rare, as the destruction of cartilage tissue inevitably leads to the destruction of the entire vertebral frame.

When a patient develops a circulatory disorder or age-related wear on the joints, the fibrous ring in the cavity of the intervertebral disc collapses, losing its normal structure. Because destruction is slow, microcracks appear through the initial stage through which the nucleus pulposus leaks.

As the inner component leaks out, the annular fibrosis begins to weaken, leading to gradual stretching and tearing. When the nucleus pulposus protrudes, an intervertebral hernia occurs, which is the most common complication of osteochondrosis. The pathology involves damage to the cartilage tissue, which causes significant discomfort. Severe back pain is also associated with neurological syndromes that result from pinching or irritation of the nerve roots.

Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the breast

In the initial stage, the patient does not feel any discomfort, so at this stage, the disease can only be detected by accident. The disease has a number of symptoms that can be masked by other pathologies.

Symptoms of chest osteochondrosis can be seen with the following manifestations:

  1. Breathing is difficult. Problems arise that manifest in shortness of breath and a feeling of shortness of breath. This indicates damage to the thoracic vertebrae and spinal cord.
  2. The main symptom is pain in the chest area. There is also an urgent sensation in the heart, which is more reminiscent of an ischemic attack.
  3. The discomfort occurs when the back bends. As the disease progresses, the pain increases in this situation.
  4. In the background of deteriorating blood circulation, a feeling of coldness occurs in the lower or upper limbs.
  5. Chest pain in the background of developing intervertebral hernias. The discomfort is often felt more strongly on the left or right side of the affected area.
  6. Discomfort in the throat and difficulty swallowing. If the nerve endings in the upper part of the chest region are irritated, a cough will appear.
  7. Women may experience chest pain that is not associated with cyclical changes or hormonal imbalances.
  8. A tingling or burning sensation appears in the legs and feet area.
  9. Hair and nails become brittle, dull.
  10. Herpes zoster is less common.
  11. Back and chest pain occur at the same time.
  12. Uncommonly, discomfort occurs in the stomach, liver, or pancreas.
  13. Stiff pain in the ribs appears, suggesting intercostal neuralgia.
  14. There are signs of chest chondrosis and compression - similar pathology.
  15. There are problems with the work of the gastrointestinal tract. Nausea, stomach difficulty.
  16. In men, some libido may decrease. Problems arise in the urogenital sphere.
  17. Causes severe discomfort while standing or sitting for a long time.
  18. There is a severe headache accompanied by dizziness. Aura migraine may appear.
  19. The patient often develops intercostal neuralgia.
  20. The pain can radiate to the neck or lower back.

If you find aggregate chest osteochondrosis and signs or some of it, you should urgently consult a therapist, neurologist, or orthopedist. These symptoms should also be warned in the absence of problems with the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, and lungs.

There are both acute and subacute symptoms. If, as the osteochondrosis of the thoracic region worsens, the patient experiences severe pain that deprives the patient of ability to work and can only observe bed rest, then the subacute course is slow and does not significantly limit the patient’s motor activity.

A clear sign of a slow lesion - no acute pain. Symptoms in the subacute stage are cleared. There is no discomfort with basic exercise, including inhaling, sneezing, or turning. A person does not suffer from pain in a dream and therefore facilitates the process of falling asleep.

In order to prevent the subacute course of the disease from worsening and falling into remission, important rules must be followed:

  1. It is forbidden to lift weights.
  2. You can't bend sharply.
  3. It is forbidden to sit or stand for a long time. A person often unconsciously adopts a posture in this condition that is detrimental to the spine, so there is an excessive load on the spine, which leads to another aggravation.
  4. Avoid hypothermia. Failure to adhere to the body’s comfortable temperature control has been shown to exacerbate the inflammatory process. Moisture is also harmful to the joints.

The duration of the subacute course is individual. If you follow the medical recommendations, the patient will be completely free of discomfort within 2-3 weeks. If conservative treatment and rest do not help and the patient begins to suffer from nausea, dizziness and weakness, a specialist should be consulted urgently. Such symptoms indicate re-exacerbation.

Degrees of development of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region

The disease has 4 clinical stages, during the onset of which the patient develops signs of pathology:

  1. There are no clinical signs in the initial stage. The first stage occurs in the background of the appearance of destructive processes in cartilage and bone tissue. In the first stage, there is no cracking or elongation of the fibrous ring, so there are no hernias either. They may show initial protrusion and signs of cartilage degeneration.
  2. The second stage involves less pain or discomfort. An attentive patient will see a doctor, so osteochondrosis of the chest region will be detected immediately. Individuals who do not want to visit a specialist will continue to endure the second stage using the available therapies, but self-medication will not be enough for a long time. At this stage, the most common neurological symptoms may occur, including headache, burns in the interscapular zone, neck pain, and hypertension. Also at this stage, the degenerative destruction of the spine increases: the fibrous ring protrudes, leading to the appearance of an intervertebral hernia in the thoracic region.
  3. The third stage is already difficult for the patient. Persistent neurological syndromes develop, including pain radiating constantly to the shoulder blades, arms, clavicle, and lower back. The patient may show somatic and autonomic abnormalities, indicating a disorder of the nervous system. The patient is often suffering from nausea, incessant headaches, dizziness, and back pain. Disguised cardiac, gastroenterological or pulmonary signs of the disease may also appear. Demineralization of bone and cartilage tissue is active at this stage. It is prone to injuries.
  4. The last stage is the fourth. There are irreversible consequences in the background of osteochondrosis and hernia - the mobility of the intervertebral discs is completely lost and the cartilage tissue at the site of long inflammation is replaced by osteophytes. Action is required to remove them.

In order to prevent the body from running into a state similar to stage 3 or 4, it is better to consult a doctor at the slightest sign. The sooner the disease is detected and therapy is started, the faster the patient returns to normal and learns to live with osteochondrosis. The pathological destructive process cannot be stopped completely, but it can be slowed down by leading a healthy lifestyle, taking medications, and doing daily exercise. The later the patient sees a doctor, the more difficult it is to stop the severe pain syndrome associated with cartilage degeneration.

Risk factors and causes of the disease

There is no exact cause that would cause destructive changes in the spine. An important role in the appearance of pathology is attributed to an inherited factor. It has been shown that individuals with physical inactivity are more likely to have problems with the spine than those who exercise regularly. Excessive physical activity can also cause cartilage destruction at an early age.

Thinning and destruction of intervertebral discs are closely related to spinal overload. If the muscles are not strong enough and the back is subjected to regular overload, the cartilage tissue is destroyed.

What causes osteochondrosis:

  1. Obesity. If you are overweight, you will have strong pressure on your spine. As a result, bone tissue is destroyed prematurely.
  2. Presence of anomaly in the structure of bones and cartilage. Such problems arise even during the period of intrauterine development.
  3. Congenital asymmetry of intraarticular gaps in intervertebral joints, a type of anomaly of tropism, contributing to the occurrence of the degenerative-dystrophic process of the spine.
  4. Muscle cramps, spondylosis, the presence of chronically persistent trigger points, and vascular abnormalities in the chest region. These pathologies also contribute to the appearance of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region.
  5. Prolonged exposure while sitting on the spine. An example of a job is a minibus or bus driver.
  6. Frequent physical exertion with heavy lifting. Examples are loader work or professional sports.
  7. Smoking and alcohol consumption. People with unhealthy lifestyles are more likely to have a lack of minerals in their body and poor circulation, leading to back problems.
  8. Sedentary lifestyle. Insufficient physical activity results in accelerated leaching of calcium, which results in poor metabolic processes. As a result, the bones become brittle. Furthermore, muscle tissue atrophies that cause a large increase in spinal load. The result is pain, frequent discomfort with minimal physical exertion.

Due to the intervertebral discs, the spine has sufficient motility. Intervertebral discs play a shock-absorbing role. With the development of osteochondrosis, an accelerated process of demineralization occurs, vital moisture in the joints is lost. This leads to discomfort, decreased spinal movement.

Risk factors for breast osteochondrosis include:

  1. Advanced age. Older people experience natural degeneration, so the disease is more common after 40 years.
  2. Female. Girls have periods that contribute to the active leaching of bone calcium - pregnancy and menopause. Without adequate pharmacological support, spinal diseases tend to occur.
  3. Presence of hormonal disorders, endocrinological diseases. If a patient has diabetes mellitus or uncompensated hypothyroidism, intervertebral disc degeneration may occur at an early age.
  4. Prolonged immobility. If the patient is sick and has to lie down for a long time, atrophic processes occur in the muscles that cause back pain.
  5. Previous back injuries. Stretching the ligaments and tendons increases the risk of osteochondrosis in the chest region.
  6. Presence of scoliosis. Future poor posture will cause severe spinal problems, including osteochondrosis and hernia.

Diagnosis of thoracic osteochondrosis

If the patient suspects back problems, he or she should consult a therapist. The doctor performs a general patient examination, asks for complaints, and measures blood pressure. If a neurological problem occurs, the patient is referred to a close specialist - a traumatologist, neurologist or orthopedist.

During the appointment with the specialist, complaints are also asked, and the initial diagnosis of the patient is made. A series of diagnostic measures are prescribed based on visual inspection, including:

  1. Radiography. You can use an X-ray to assess the condition of the skeletal system in general. If the patient has a hernia or osteochondrosis, there are signs of pathology - a reduction in the distance between the intervertebral discs and sometimes darkening at the site of the alleged hernia. If the results of the image do not match the professional, you should continue to look for the cause of the pain and discomfort.
  2. CT or MRI. The most accurate diagnostic methods that allow an accurate examination of the state of the focus of inflammation in the image. A more detailed image can be seen on the MRI, but if there are contraindications (presence of a pacemaker or prostheses in the joints), computed tomography is prescribed. CT is an advanced X-ray that allows detailed viewing of bone, tendon, and ligament. The image renders the image as a three-dimensional image so that the details of the damage are clearly visible.
  3. Biochemical and general blood test. These analyzes are needed to assess the patient’s health status. If an increase in leukocytes, ESR, is found, it indicates an active inflammatory process in the body. Active destruction of bone tissue reduces the level of calcium and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) in the blood.
  4. Spine scintigraphy. The research method reveals the active destruction of bone tissue. Weak bone tissue is very sensitive to fragility. The method reveals the tendency and signs of degeneration.

You should consult an experienced professional to diagnose the disease. A complete clinical picture is required for a final diagnosis, taking into account several laboratory research methods.

Differentiation of thoracic osteochondrosis of the spine is required together with the following pathologies:

  1. Dyshormonal spondylopathy.
  2. Pathology of the urinary system, including urolithiasis, cystitis, or pyelonephritis.
  3. Cardiovascular diseases other than arrhythmia, tachycardia and angina pectoris.
  4. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, including chronic inflammation of the pancreas, gastric and duodenal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome.
  5. Previous injuries, fractures.
  6. Tumors in the chest, including malignancy.
  7. Rheumatoid arthritis (blood test for C-reactive protein as determined by rheumatic test and ESR).
  8. The spine is osteomyelitis.
  9. Acute inflammatory process.
  10. Ankylosing spondylitis.
  11. Spondylolisthesis.

Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine

An integrated approach to therapy is needed to slow disease progression. In the initial phase, only conservative therapy is presented, which consists of the use of drugs and physiotherapy treatments. In advanced cases, when the patient has a large injury and severe bone degeneration, surgery is prescribed. Do not self-medicate at home. Folk remedies do not eliminate osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine.

In what cases is the surgery performed?

Osteochondrosis initiated in the thoracic region negatively affects the patient’s quality of life. If the patient has constant discomfort that interferes with normal life, given the lack of effect of medication, a surgical solution to the problem may be offered.

The absolute indications for surgery are:

  1. Lack of sensitivity in the bladder and intestines.
  2. If the sensitivity of the legs disappears and the patient loses the ability to move independently.
  3. Paralysis due to severe overgrowth of the hernia.

In other cases, the patient decides independently to remove hernial formation. If the disease is indeed causing severe agony and the patient’s condition is not improving in the context of conservative treatment, doctors recommend surgery.

Medication for osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine

During the period of exacerbation, your doctor will prescribe various medications that are needed to relieve the inflammatory process. The acute period is characterized by severe pain that can only be relieved with medication. If you take enough medicine, the patient will get better. Only an experienced professional can prescribe medications, self-medication is unacceptable.

Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is treated with the following drugs:

  1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics or analgesics. These medications are designed to quickly relieve the back pain associated with active inflammatory processes. The effect of the tablets or injections can be felt the next day. Taking any medication in the NSAID group has side effects with long-term use, so experts recommend limiting the use of the medication to a minimum of 1-2 weeks. Painkillers are most harmful to the gastric mucosa, causing gastropathy and inflammation. Patients at risk receive certain medications designed to protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Examples are proton pump inhibitors, H2 histamine receptor blockers, antacids. People with ulcers and gastritis are better off avoiding NSAIDs or taking modern analogues with selective effects.
  2. Muscle relaxants. These drugs are very effective in treating muscle cramps. Relieve muscle tension pain. They affect the trigger points in the pinched muscle tissue. The more a person is burdened, the greater their number. Muscle relaxants remove muscle tension well and therefore have an analgesic effect. You should take medication during treatment, with an average duration of therapy of at least 2-4 weeks.
  3. Group B vitamins can be assigned to B1, B6, B12 injections in the form of combined injections. In high doses, these substances have analgesic effects and have a positive effect on the nervous system. Neurotrophic drugs are effective in treating pain associated with pinched nerve roots. With the help of nutrition, it is impossible to meet the norm of these substances that is necessary to achieve a therapeutic effect, so they are prescribed in the form of drugs. The average length of an injection is 2-3 weeks. They are then switched to tablets if necessary.
  4. Anti-inflammatory ointments, gels. If the pain is tolerable and systemic forms of NSAIDs are contraindicated, external medications are prescribed. The advantage of external treatments is that they do not cause side effects. In rare cases, skin allergies may occur, but the ointment does not cause gastrointestinal or laboratory blood loss. Another advantage of outdoor products is the possibility of long-term use. You can rub the gels for up to 4 weeks, after which they will take a break. The schedule and duration of therapy are determined by the treating physician.
  5. Honroprotectors. These are complex substances used to nourish the cartilage tissue of the joints. A long course of at least six months is required, after which a break of 2-3 months is taken and the therapy is repeated. The release is given as an injection within 2-3 months as they are better absorbed. They then switch to supportive care, including the use of tablets. It is important to understand that medication does not stop the destruction of cartilage tissue. They only create additional food, which slows down the degenerative processes in the bones and joints.
  6. Complex preparations of calcium and vitamin D3. Residents of northern latitudes have been shown not to receive enough vitamin D3 because solar activity is low throughout the year in this region. To get rid of hypovitaminosis, colecalciferol supplements should be taken in winter and fall while daily activity is minimal. Without this vitamin, assimilation of calcium and other minerals is impossible. Due to long-term calcium deficiency, bone tissue becomes thinner over time, so a person suffers from osteochondrosis and other complications. Calcium and D3 are better absorbed in combination, so complex formulations are prescribed. The dose and course of administration should be prescribed by your doctor.

In addition to treatment, homeopathy, antispasmodics and complex multivitamins may be prescribed.

Conservative therapy in breast osteochondrosis

During the recovery period, the patient should pay due attention to rehabilitation. The more careful the patient’s health is maintained, the less frequent the attacks of the disease.

The most effective conservative treatments are:

  1. Exercise therapy. With the help of exercises, the patient learns to keep his back straight, strengthening the muscle ligament. Physiotherapy can be done at any age, several times a week. The complex is selected individually, taking into account the anatomical characteristics of the patient. Start gradually, initially spending no more than 5 minutes a day. As physical properties improve, the patient learns to perform more difficult exercises over time.
  2. Supportive corset. Anatomical devices are used to support weakened muscles if there are contraindications to their strengthening. The patient chooses a bandage depending on his height and the type of appointment. The treating physician should select the appropriate model. The duration and pattern of wearing should be determined individually. You can’t wear the corset day and night, otherwise your back muscles will be even weaker.
  3. Massage. In medical practice, massages are one of the most popular and effective methods of conservative treatment in the presence of osteochondrosis of the patient’s chest region. During the healing period, the muscles need extra support. It is helpful if the blood flow is temporarily improved and the tensed muscles are resolved with the right technique. You must attend specialist courses several times a year.
  4. Physiotherapy. Physiotherapy procedures are widespread in trauma, orthopedic, and neurological practices. The procedures improve local blood flow, administer systemic drugs externally, and the device acts on damaged tissues. As a result, the muscles heat up and the chronic inflammatory process ceases in the affected area. Examples of medical procedures - magnetotherapy, shock wave treatment, electrophoresis.

Less commonly, manual therapy and acupuncture are prescribed.

The thoracic region osteochondrosis is a serious disease when it begins. To prevent the acute progression of the disease, the pathology must be comprehensively treated.