Osteochondrosis is one of the most common diseases of the spine. It is believed to develop primarily in the neck or lower back. Because it is precisely at these points that the spine is very flexible and is subject to a lot of stress. However, the sedentary lifestyle of most people and long periods of sitting at the table made osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine more and more common. Although in many cases this pathology is not immediately diagnosed. After all, the peculiarity of thoracic osteochondrosis is that its symptoms are non-specific and resemble many other pathologies.
This degenerative-dystrophic disease affects the intervertebral discs of the thoracic spine. This is due to a violation of metabolic processes, which leads to thinning and drying of cartilage tissue. As a result, under the influence of physical exertion, the intervertebral discs begin to collapse and lose their depreciation functions. The vertebrae, ligaments and joints of the spine are gradually affected. Nerve fibers and blood vessels can be affected.
This process develops slowly, so the pathology is difficult to diagnose. Also, not all of them go to the doctor right away because they don't know what the risk of thoracic osteochondrosis is. But without treatment, the disease can lead to serious complications. Since this part of the spine is responsible for the blood supply and innervation of the internal organs, with an advanced form of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, various pathologies can develop. The intestinal peristalsis, the work of the heart, liver and digestive tract are disturbed. Pancreatitis, cholecystitis, biliary dyskinesia can occur. However, the most common complications occur in the spine. In addition to herniated discs and intercostal neuralgia, spinal cord compression, spondylosis, sciatica and postural disorders can occur.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is equally common in men and women. Its appearance does not even depend on age, although it was previously believed that degenerative-dystrophic diseases are characteristic only of the elderly. But modern youth are increasingly suffering from osteochondrosis due to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
The most common osteochondrosis is believed to be of the cervical spine. Often the pathology also occurs in the lumbar area. This is due to the special structure of the skeleton. In the chest area, the spine is less mobile because it is connected to the ribs and sternum.
The intervertebral discs are thinner here and the vertebrae are closer together. However, this section is less prone to injuries and other external influences, as part of the load is borne by the ribs and chest.
Osteochondrosis usually occurs at the level of 7-11 vertebrae. In this case, the intervertebral discs are particularly affected. Most often, 1-2 segments of the spine are affected. However, sometimes polysegmental osteochondrosis develops, in which several intervertebral discs are destroyed at the same time. Rarely, the pathology in this section occurs independently, usually combined with a lesion of the cervical or lumbar spine. In this case, the symptoms will be more pronounced, making it easier to diagnose the disease.
The peculiarity of thoracic osteochondrosis is that it rarely manifests itself with back pain after exercise, as is the case when it is located in the cervical or lumbar spine. The pathology at the initial stage is confused with heart or lung diseases. After all, pain is often localized in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea, chills appear. But the manifestations of thoracic osteochondrosis are not very bright, therefore, at the initial stage, patients do not always go to the doctor. Because of this, the pathology advances.
The danger of thoracic osteochondrosis is that it is "disguised" as other diseases. The pathology develops slowly, rarely does one of the patients go to the doctor at the initial stage. Osteochondrosis begins with the thinning of the intervertebral disc. Its core is flattened, the shell tears and dries up, and the vertebrae move closer together. At this stage there is usually no major discomfort, just slight muscle tension. If the disease can be detected, then restoring the condition of the intervertebral discs can completely cure it.
But usually the progression of osteochondrosis continues. An inflammatory process can set in in the surrounding soft tissues and joint capsules suffer. The mobility of the spine is limited and the vertebrae can be moved. With continued increased physical activity, micro-cracks appear due to the friction of the vertebrae against each other. At this point there is a feeling of pressure in the chest, pain with every movement in the upper body.
In the third stage of osteochondrosis, the intervertebral discs become very thin, protrusions and hernias appear. The mobility of the spine is almost completely restricted. Osteophytes begin to form on the vertebrae. This stage is characterized by a pronounced radicular syndrome, as nerve fibers are impaired. In this case, the work of internal organs is seriously disrupted. In most cases, at this point the patient goes to the doctor and begins treatment. If this is not done, complications can lead to disability and, if the spinal cord is compressed, to complete immobility.
The last stage of osteochondrosis is characterized by the complete destruction of the intervertebral discs and the loss of their functions. The bone tissue of the vertebrae begins to collapse, so that the mobility of the spine is completely restricted. All vegetative and radicular symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis are clearly pronounced.
The development of thoracic osteochondrosis is wavy. This is usually a chronic process that is slow and with little discomfort. It can lead to increased tiredness and weakness. And if you are exposed to external factors, an exacerbation with sharp pain occurs. In this case, patients are often hospitalized as a seizure may be accompanied by a feeling of lack of air, difficulty breathing, chest or abdominal pain.
The main cause of thoracic osteochondrosis, like its other forms, is a violation of mineral metabolism. As a result of degenerative-dystrophic processes, protrusions or herniated discs appear, they become thinner and no longer perform their functions, vertebrae gradually collapse, osteophytes grow. This is mostly due to an unbalanced diet resulting in a lack of essential nutrients or to age-related changes in the composition of the cartilage tissue. Disc degeneration can also lead to poor blood flow to the spine, bad habits, or a hereditary predisposition.
But the lack of minerals does not always lead to osteochondrosis. This requires provoking factors that affect the spine itself.
Therefore, the following reasons for this pathology are also distinguished:
- frequent static load on the spine;
- prolonged sitting in an uncomfortable position at the table;
- Lift weights;
- Injury to the spine or surrounding tissues;
- Exercise of weight sports;
- weakness of the muscle corset;
- congenital malformations of the skeleton;
- severe hypothermia;
- nervous overload.
It turns out that people who spend a long time in an uncomfortable position at a table or drive a car, as well as those who do hard physical work, are the most susceptible to the development of pathologies. In fact, both increased stress and its complete absence are equally detrimental to the intervertebral discs.
In addition, osteochondrosis often develops in young people with osteochondropathy. This pathology usually develops in the lower chest in adolescents. It is characterized by necrosis of the spongy tissue of the vertebrae, deformity of the spine and the appearance of neurological symptoms. As the pathology progresses, osteochondrosis becomes complicated.
Manifestations of pathology
The main symptoms of thoracic spine osteochondrosis are pain, radicular syndrome, and internal organ dysfunction. The pain in this pathology can be sharp, paroxysmal or painful, constant and increasing with movement. Sometimes patients are hospitalized with suspected acute pancreatitis, cholecystitis, or urolithiasis. After all, pain is not always localized in the area of the affected vertebrae. Therefore, breast osteochondrosis is often confused with pathologies of other organs.
In addition, degenerative processes in the spine in this disease are almost always accompanied by vascular diseases or intercostal neuralgia. This is due to the special structure of the spine in this section - a small distance between the vertebrae and a large number of nerves and blood vessels.
Thoracic osteochondrosis can be suspected by limiting the mobility of the upper body and strengthening the stoop. Intercostal neuralgia is common. Acute pain can last for hours or more. Hypothermia can be triggered by lifting weights, maintaining a static posture for long periods of time.
If the vessels are affected, there is a violation of blood flow and nutrition of the skin. As a result, the nails are more fragile, dry and flaky. Coldness of the skin and shivering of the limbs are often observed.
Characteristics of pain
Pain in osteochondrosis of the chest region can vary in intensity and localization. Pain usually occurs in the chest or between the shoulder blades. They are made worse by lifting an arm, turning or bending over, coughing or sneezing. The pain can be sharp, oppressive, aching.
Usually such sensations are divided into two groups: dorsago and dorsalgia. Dorsago is an acute attack of pain between the shoulder blades. It is also called "chest lumbago". The pain is so severe that it prevents the person from moving. A dorsal attack usually occurs on the first movement after a long period in a stationary position. It is accompanied by muscle spasms, so that the function of breathing is impaired. The sensation extends to the shoulder blade, between the ribs to the chest. Chest pain with osteochondrosis is similar to an attack of angina pectoris, but, on the contrary, nitroglycerin does not get rid of it. In addition, the pain increases when you press on the vertebrae.
Dorsalgia is a chronic, mild pain. It usually starts gradually with mild thoracic discomfort. In this case, the pain may worsen when bending, twisting, raising an arm, and even walking. This severely restricts the patient's mobility. In addition, an increase in pain can be observed with deep inhalation, after prolonged sitting or at night. Dorsalgia can last from 2 weeks to a month. Chest tightness and shortness of breath may resemble pneumonia, but the patient does not have a cough or fever.
When the vertebrae or spasmodic muscles of the nerve roots are compressed, the signs of osteochondrosis of the chest area increase. After all, the spinal nerves located at this point in the spine are responsible for the innervation of the skin, the motor functions of the limbs and the function of the internal organs.
In addition to sharp pain in the back, chest or abdomen, compression of the nerves is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- paresis or partial paralysis of the limbs;
- Violation of skin sensitivity;
- Numbness, burning, tingling sensation, "goose bumps" when walking;
- violation of tendon reflexes;
- Reflex muscle spasms;
- trophic changes in the skin - hair loss, discoloration, dryness and flaking.
The intensity of these symptoms increases with physical exertion, deep breaths, prolonged sitting, hypothermia or stress.
There are many nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic spine that ensure the normal functioning of internal organs. Therefore, with osteochondrosis, various autonomic disorders are necessarily observed. They depend on the location of the affected vertebrae, as well as the stage of the pathology.
Injuries to the spine in the upper chest area lead to discomfort in the esophagus, a feeling of coma in the throat. Difficulty swallowing, voice changes may occur. The middle thoracic vertebrae are responsible for the liver, gallbladder, stomach and pancreas. Therefore, when destroyed, symptoms often appear similar to pancreatitis, cholecystitis, or gastritis. When degenerative changes affect the lower thoracic vertebrae, intestinal and genital problems can arise.
Patients often go to the doctor with abdominal pain. They usually get worse in the evening or after doing physical work. In addition, the pain is not related to the characteristics of the patient's diet. This gastrological syndrome is characteristic of thoracic osteochondrosis. But despite abdominal pain, intestinal disorders, nausea and gas, no problems with the work of the digestive tract are found. These sensations come from damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the spine.
Due to the fact that the signs of breast osteochondrosis are nonspecific, the pathology can only be determined with a comprehensive examination. At the same time, it is very important to distinguish it from other diseases. X-ray or tomography of the spine will help rule out spondylopathy, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis.
But other examination methods are also required. This is a urine test, general and biochemical blood test, fluorography, EKG, MRI or ultrasound of the internal organs. Such an examination makes it possible to exclude pathologies such as pancreatitis, gastritis, stomach ulcers, heart attacks, pneumonia and urolithiasis.
Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine should be comprehensive. Since the cause of the pathology is degenerative processes, it is impossible to completely cure it. Only in the initial stage, when the structure of the vertebrae has not yet been disturbed and the intervertebral discs have only decreased slightly, can this process be stopped and the functions of the spine restored.
But typically, breast osteochondrosis treatment aims to slow tissue destruction, relieve pain and neurological symptoms, and restore mobility. The choice of therapeutic methods depends on the stage of the pathology, the location of the degenerative processes and the manifested symptoms. It is necessary to start treatment as early as possible, then there are more options to avoid complications.
A visit to the doctor is particularly important if the back is in severe pain and the stabbing pain radiates into the chest or shoulder blade. Such an aggravation can be eliminated using special methods. Usually these are drugs in the form of tablets or injections, various ointments or compresses, physiotherapy procedures. It is also necessary to immobilize the spine: the patient is shown bed rest and restricted mobility for several days.
After the seizure is removed, treatment does not stop. But now its main goal is to stop degenerative processes and restore tissue trophism. Of the drugs for this, chordroprotectors, vitamins and means to improve metabolism are used. In addition, courses in massage and physiotherapy procedures, as well as physiotherapy exercises, are absolutely mandatory. In addition, the performance of special exercises should be constant. To avoid complications, it is necessary to monitor the diet so that it provides the body with all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Lifestyle is also very important: choosing the right mattress and pillow for sleeping, a chair for work, alternating rest and physical activity.
Breast osteochondrosis is a fairly serious pathology that, if left untreated, can lead to dangerous complications. But difficulties in diagnosis lead to the fact that the disease often progresses. That is why it is so important to lead a correct lifestyle and avoid factors that provoke the destruction of intervertebral discs. This will help prevent osteochondrosis from developing and keep the spine healthy.