Thoracic back pain

Many pathological processes can cause thoracic back pain. The list includes, but is not exhaustive:

  • mechanical or musculoskeletal pain
  • degenerative spine disease, including thoracic disc degeneration
  • scoliosis and other deformities
  • trauma, including fractures and ligamental injuries
  • instabilities
  • post-operative
  • inflammation
  • infection
  • vascular abnormalities
  • tumours, both benign and malignant (cancers)

Healthy spine, inflammation of joints and fusion of bones-bamboo spine

Thoracic back pain with image of tumour in spinal cord

Metastatic tumour infiltration of the thoracic spine, MRI saggital plane image

Metastatic tumour infiltration of the thoracic spine, MRI saggital plane image

Thoracic disc herniation

Thoracic disc herniation is a rare condition. It comprises less the 1% of all disc herniations. Mostly it affects the lower part of the thoracic spine. Frequently the disc can be calcified.

Commonly, this condition is completely asymptomatic. However, in some cases it can cause pain which may be severe. The pain tends to radiate over the rib cage frequently following a course of an individual rib.


Thinning disc deformation

Thinning disc deformation


Disc degenerated by osteophyte formation

Disc degenerated by osteophyte formation

In some cases, thoracic disc herniation may cause compression of the spinal cord. This can lead to significant neurological deficit like sensory changes, numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, loss of bladder and bowel control, unsteady gait with poor balance and frequent falls. This condition requires urgent medical attention.