Recently, doctors have been receiving more and more complaints about back pain, and young women often suffer from it. If the discomfort is localized in the thoracic spine, it may be caused by an ailment such as thoracic osteochondrosis, the symptoms of which are described in detail below.
Thoracic osteochondrosis - causes
Spinal osteochondrosis is a pathology in which negative changes occur in the tissues of the intervertebral discs, elements of the spinal column located between the two vertebral bodies. The intervertebral disc is a kind of round, flat pad consisting of a gel-like collagen core, fibrous connective tissue and vitreous cartilaginous. The main functions provided by these structures are:
- connection and retention of adjacent vertebral bone bodies;
- shock-absorbing protection of the spine, which protects against injuries due to gravity and body loads;
- ensure the mobility of the vertebrae adjacent to each other.
If the intervertebral discs are in satisfactory functional condition, the spine acquires elasticity, mobility and the ability to withstand various mechanical loads. When the cartilage structure changes its shape, texture, loses strength and elasticity, these functions cannot be fully performed. Basically, this occurs against the background of metabolic disorders.
In part, pathological changes in the intervertebral discs that cause thoracic osteochondrosis are explained by the fact that with age their nutrition through their own blood vessels ceases and the supply of nutrients is possible only thanks to neighboring structures (ligaments , vertebral bodies). The exact causes of poor nutrition of the intervertebral structures and the mechanism of their destruction are unknown, but doctors identify a number of predisposing factors:
- systemic metabolic disorders in the body;
- excessive body weight;
- poor nutrition, drinking regimen;
- sedentary work;
- poor posture;
- injury to the back, spine;
- intense physical work or sports training;
- the pregnancy;
- wearing uncomfortable shoes, high heels.
Degrees of thoracic osteochondrosis.
A disease such as thoracic osteochondrosis does not show symptoms immediately, becauseit develops gradually and over a long period of time. In addition, due to the low mobility of the spine in this area, osteochondrosis of the thoracic region manifests itself in the later stages, in the presence of significant pathological changes. In total, four degrees of pathology are distinguished, depending on the developed deviations.
Thoracic osteochondrosis 1st degree
The preclinical stage is grade 1 osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine. At this stage, partial dehydration and compaction of the central part of the intervertebral discs occurs, their height decreases, which leads to a decrease in their elasticity and firmness. The ability of the spine to withstand normal loads is still preserved. Disc bulges begin to form.
Second degree thoracic osteochondrosis.
When grade 2 thoracic osteochondrosis develops, the disease is characterized by the appearance of cracks in the annulus fibrosus. The sinking (thinning) of the discs continues, the amount of intervertebral fluid decreases significantly, and the vertebrae begin to rub against each other as the load on the back increases. This stage is sometimes called discogenic radiculitis.
Third degree thoracic osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine of the third degree is accompanied by destruction and rupture of the fibrous tissues of the disc, release of the central part, i. e. the formation of a herniated protrusion of the intervertebral disc occurs. As a result, nerve roots begin to be pinched, nearby vessels are compressed, and veins and arteries are pinched.
Thoracic osteochondrosis 4 degrees.
The last, most severe stage of the disease is characterized by displacement, torsion, deformation of the vertebral bodies, a further increase in their area and proliferation. The fibrous tissue of the affected disc begins to be replaced by bone tissue in the form of specific growths - osteophytes, which compress the spinal cord. As a result, the mobility of the spine is significantly reduced.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine: symptoms
Due to the peculiarities of the localization of pathological processes, osteochondrosis of the thoracic region has both typical and atypical symptoms, repeating the manifestations of other diseases. This is due to the fact that due to the compression of blood vessels and nerve fibers, structural changes occur in the spine and the functions of nearby internal organs are disturbed.
Let's list which symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis are characteristic and most common:
- pain in the back and chest;
- feeling of tightness in the chest;
- tingling sensations in the extremities;
- numbness in arms, legs, neck, shoulders;
- stiffness, pain in the back and extremities;
- muscle spasms in the upper and middle back;
- Limited mobility of the spine in this area (difficulty bending the body).
Pain due to osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine.
When "thoracic osteochondrosis" is diagnosed, symptoms associated with pain come to the fore, among other complaints. Its intensity and duration depend on the stage of the pathological process. The location of the pain can change periodically and rapidly, for example, moving from one area of the chest to another, covering the entire chest. Pain is often felt in the area between the shoulder blades. The nature of pain in thoracic osteochondrosis is dull, compressive and sharp. Increased pain is observed at night and with:
- raising hands;
- neck turns;
- transport heavy objects;
- sudden movements;
- Increased physical activity;
- heavy breathing, coughing, sneezing;
Can there be shortness of breath with thoracic osteochondrosis?
Due to the displacement of the vertebral bodies, pathological changes in the structure of the chest, pinching of nerve fibers and blood vessels associated with the lungs, shortness of breath often occurs with thoracic osteochondrosis. In addition, because in the thoracic region there are structures responsible for the innervation of the heart, intestines, liver, kidneys and some other organs, the disease in many cases is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- headaches, dizziness;
- pain in the heart area;
- mammary gland pain;
- pain in the hypochondrium (similar to the appearance of pancreatitis, cholecystitis);
- epigastric pain not associated with food;
- discomfort in the pharynx, esophagus, foreign body sensation;
- sexual dysfunctions.
Pain in the heart with thoracic osteochondrosis, often pressing, squeezing, can be misleading when making a diagnosis, becausesimilar to the manifestations of angina pectoris, myocardial infarction. A feature of these sensations is their long duration and lack of effect when taking medications to dilate the vessels of the heart. There are no changes in the cardiogram.
Syndromes with thoracic osteochondrosis.
The symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis in women, associated with a single mechanism of onset, often present in a complex manner. There are two syndromes with a set of specific pathological conditions caused by thoracic osteochondrosis:
- back pain;
Dorsalgia of the thoracic spine
Prolonged and not very pronounced pain with thoracic osteochondrosis in women, often characterized as pain, pulling, is inherent in backgia. Discomfort may be present for 2 to 3 weeks, with the discomfort decreasing slightly (especially when walking) or intensifying (often at night, when bending over, or when breathing deeply). In the presence of this syndrome, thoracic osteochondrosis may also present symptoms associated with shortness of breath and muscle stiffness.
Dorsal of the thoracic spine
Paroxysmal manifestations of the disease are called "dorsago" or "thoracic lumbago. "In this case, the pain appears suddenly and sharply, and often resembles signs of a heart attack. An attack of thoracic osteochondrosis has the following symptoms:
- sharp, dagger-like pain;
- pain is felt in the area between the ribs, the interscapular area;
- an attack often appears after a long stay in one position;
- the pain intensifies when turning the torso;
- there is difficulty breathing, severe muscle tension.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine: consequences
If the treatment of pathology is not started on time, osteochondrosis of the thoracic region can lead to the following consequences:
- vegetative-vascular dystonia;
- disturbance in the functioning of internal organs (liver, kidneys, etc. );
- decreased hearing, vision;
- epicondylitis of the elbow joint;
- paresis and paralysis of the arms;
- loss of sensitivity of the skin tissue;
- disability, etc.
How to treat thoracic osteochondrosis?
If symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis appear, it is recommended to consult a neurologist, who, after examining the back and examining the spine in various positions of the patient, will be able to make a primary diagnosis. To determine the extent of damage, x-rays, MRI or CT scan are prescribed. Treatment tactics depend on the results obtained.
Often, painful symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis of the spine are eliminated by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In case of exacerbation, accompanied by severe pain, paravertebral blocks can be performed with an anesthetic solution. Additionally, the following medications may be prescribed as part of conservative therapy:
- muscle relaxants;
- corticosteroids, etc.
To improve metabolic processes, eliminate muscle hypertonicity and prevent various complications, the following treatment methods are used:
- manual therapy;
- spinal traction;
- Physiotherapeutic procedures (laser, ultrasound, etc. ).
Surgical treatment is required if there is compression of the spinal cord by a fragment of the intervertebral disc. In this case, a laminotomy (excision of the vertebral arches) or discectomy (removal of part of the intervertebral disc or its complete removal with the installation of a graft) can be performed. In clinics with modern equipment, surgical procedures are performed using low-traumatic methods through small incisions.