Osteochondrosis of the spine is a pathology of a predominantly age-related nature: the older a person is, the more the intervertebral discs are subject to degenerative-dystrophic changes. To a greater extent, the cervical and lumbar regions are susceptible to ailment, osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is recorded by diagnosticians much less often. The reason is that it is the thoracic region that is rigidly fixed by the costal arches, which determines the minimum mobility of the discs.
According to statistics, this disease occurs equally often in both sexes, young people and even children are prone to spinal pathology. Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region at the onset of the disease are poorly expressed, they are often confused with manifestations of other pathologies. This often leads to the fact that the treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine sometimes starts late.
What is osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is a pathological process characterized by damage to the intervertebral discs of the corresponding area. The GOP is the longest part of the spine, it consists of 12 vertebrae, the upper thoracic structures are more susceptible to degenerative changes due to their location.
Under the influence of negative factors (excess weight, excessive physical activity, injury), irreversible changes occur in the discs located between the vertebrae:
- In the nucleus pulposus of the vertebra, which is a semi-liquid structure, the amount of fluid decreases. It dries up, losing its amortization function.
- Due to the lack of a uniform load, the annulus fibrosus surrounding the nucleus pulposus loses its strength, and its vulnerability increases. With increased loads on the spine, in particular on the thoracic region, cracks form in the annulus fibrosus.
- Over time, the number of these cracks increases and the nucleus pulposus begins to squeeze out through them.
As a complication of the pathological process, disc herniation occurs, nerve fibers are compressed, which determines a certain clinical picture of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine.
The reasons for the development of the disease
The exact causes of thoracic osteochondrosis of the spine have not yet been established. Only the predisposing factors are reliably known, under the influence of which the destruction of intervertebral structures occurs in chest osteochondrosis. As the cause of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region, hereditary predisposition and age-related changes are often called. The list of provoking factors also includes:
- Spinal injuries (falls, strong blows to the thoracic region).
- Excess weight.
- Excessive physical stress on the spine (weight lifting).
- Physical inactivity (lack of physical activity provokes muscle weakening, which leads to osteochondrosis of the spine).
- Prolonged hypothermia, infectious diseases.
- Poor blood supply to the vertebral structures due to vascular disorders.
- Active hobby for sports (increased training leads to spinal injuries).
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine can develop as a result of hormonal disruption in the body, due to a deficiency of vitamins or trace elements necessary for the normal activity of ODA.
How does chest osteochondrosis manifest?
Symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis depend on many factors, including the age of the patient, the severity of abnormal changes in the vertebral structures, the stage of pathology (with an exacerbation, the clinical signs of thoracic osteochondrosis are much more pronounced). The main symptom in osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is painful, uncomfortable sensations of varying intensity.
Pain can be of two types:
- Dorsago- attacks of acute piercing pain in the spine, localization - between the shoulder blades. The pain intensifies when trying to change position, to take a breath.
- Dorsalgia- differs in gradual development, can last up to 2 weeks. Characterized by increased pain with prolonged stay in one position, when walking, painful sensations weaken or disappear altogether.
Intercostal neuralgia is a characteristic manifestation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region. The pain intensifies with sudden movements, inhalation-exhalation, can be localized at one point or spread to the entire chest area, calming down when the patient takes a certain position.
Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region are similar to the clinic of other diseases. For example, frequent pain and discomfort behind the breastbone is often mistaken for symptoms of cardiovascular pathologies (angina pectoris, heart attack). Pain in the abdominal cavity, provoked by a violation of the innervation of internal organs, resemble signs of gastritis or cholecystitis.
As the disease progresses, the signs of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine become more pronounced.
Other symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine include:
- Feeling of numbness, "goose bumps" on the skin (paresthesia).
- Phenomena of dyspepsia (belching and nausea with osteochondrosis occur due to impaired gastric motility, in rare cases vomiting may occur against the background of an attack).
- Burning, peeling in the leg area, cold skin.
- Thinning, fragility of the nail plate.
- Pain, foreign body sensation in the pharynx or esophagus.
The specific signs of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region depend on which vertebrae are subject to changes and can vary significantly, which complicates the diagnosis.
Symptoms of breast osteochondrosis in women are not much different from the manifestations that are noted in the stronger sex. Unlike men, who develop osteochondrosis due to severe physical exertion or injuries, in women this disease is more often provoked by hormonal disruptions, vascular disorders and wearing high-heeled shoes.
In women, osteochondrosis is most often provoked by vascular disorders and the wearing of high-heeled shoes.
Signs of breast osteochondrosis in women can vary significantly depending on which vertebrae develop degenerative changes. The only difference is that pain in the chest area sometimes simulates the manifestations of breast pathology (mastopathy, for example). Thoracic osteochondrosis in women is also accompanied by impaired sensitivity, intercostal neuralgia and other characteristic manifestations characteristic of the disease.
Symptoms of breast osteochondrosis in men usually appear earlier than in women. This is due to the fact that the intervertebral discs in the fairer sex are protected by a female hormone - estrogen. For this reason, osteochondrosis develops in them more often during menopause, when estrogen production falls.
The main symptom of osteochondrosis in men is chest pain.
At the same time, it is more difficult to diagnose thoracic osteochondrosis in men: its manifestations are not so pronounced and are better "camouflaged" for other diseases. The main signs of osteochondrosis in the chest in the stronger sex are pain, aggravated by inhalation and sudden movements, paresthesia, a feeling of coldness in the legs.
Degrees of development and types
Depending on the severity of the pathology, the severity of its manifestations, there are 4 degrees of thoracic osteochondrosis. Each of them is characterized by certain dystrophic changes in bone and cartilage tissues and the corresponding clinical manifestations.
- First degree- at this stage of the disease, changes in the intervertebral discs are poorly expressed. Small cracks appear in the center of the annulus fibrosus. The nucleus pulposus penetrates into these lesions. Pains appear periodically and only in the area of the affected vertebra.
- Second degree- damaged vertebrae acquire pathological mobility. This condition is accompanied by severe pain, the intensity of which increases with movement. Static postures also cause discomfort, localized in the sternum.
- Third degree- manifested by dysplastic instability of the vertebrae and irreversible changes. Due to the rupture of the annulus fibrosus, the nucleus pulposus protrudes outward. The consequence of this is the development of intervertebral hernias.
- Fourth degree- at this stage, intervertebral osteochondrosis is characterized by the spread of destructive changes to the tissues adjacent to the vertebrae. As a result of the replacement of fibrous structures with bone, osteophytes are formed - specific growths that pinch the spinal cord. Because of this, the spine becomes inactive.
Depending on the area of the lesion, local and common forms of the disease of the spine are distinguished. If, in addition to the thoracic spine, other parts of the spine are involved in the pathological process, the patient will be diagnosed with widespread osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine.
Without proper treatment, osteochondrosis will progress. The periods of exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine with the progression of the disease appear more and more often, significantly complicating the patient's quality of life. During an exacerbation, the patient experiences excruciating pain, his mobility is severely limited.
Developing osteochondrosis is also dangerous for its complications, including:
- Schmorl's hernia.
- Spondyloarthrosis, spondylosis.
- Radiculitis (radiculopathy).
- VSD (vegetative-vascular dystonia).
- Compression of the spinal canal.
- Formation of bone osteophytes.
If the disease is ignored for a long time and does not deal with it, this can bring the patient to disability, since the mobility of the spine is significantly limited and the person is not able to lead the usual way of life.
The most common and affordable method for diagnosing thoracic osteochondrosis is X-ray of the corresponding spine. Its informativeness allows confirming or refuting the diagnosis, determining the location of the pathological process, the presence of osteophytes. In some cases, the neurologist recommends that the patient undergo CT or MRI of the spine.
Computed tomography allows visualizing soft tissues - spinal cord, muscles, blood vessels. Magnetic resonance imaging is prescribed to identify intervertebral hernias, determine the degree of damage to the nerve roots, the severity of spinal stenosis.
Emergency care for osteochondrosis may be required when an attack of acute spinal pain occurs. It is best in this situation to immediately contact a specialized specialist - a neurologist or a vertebrologist, in case of unbearable pain - call an ambulance. The following first aid measures will help alleviate the condition:
- Ensuring complete rest - the patient must be laid on a bed with a hard mattress.
- The use of local anti-inflammatory drugs - gels and ointments.
- Taking painkillers, NSAIDs, as well as muscle relaxants to eliminate muscle spasm.
Massage during the acute stage is strictly contraindicated, since such manipulations can provoke an increase in pain in the spine and a reflex spasm of muscle tissue.
How to treat chest osteochondrosis
Damage to the structures of the spinal column, alas, is irreversible, therefore, it is completely impossible to cure osteochondrosis. Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, as well as its other areas, has two goals - to eliminate the symptoms of the disease and prevent further destruction of cartilage and bone tissues. It is necessary to act in a comprehensive manner, therapy is based on the use of medications, the appointment of massage, exercise therapy, physiotherapy, effective folk methods are welcome. This is the only way, if not to completely cure the patient, then significantly improve the quality of his life.
In the hospital
Treatment of thoracic osteochondrosis is usually carried out at home, even in the presence of a pronounced clinic of the disease. Hospitalization in a hospital is carried out with an exacerbation of pathology in the case when medical measures at home are ineffective. In the acute stage, the patient is shown a strict bed rest for 5-7 days. To relieve pain and acute inflammatory manifestations, analgesics and NSAIDs are used.
If the pain in the spine is not relieved, paravertebral blockade of the affected area of the spine is used, which has a prolonged analgesic effect. For sleep disorders, the patient is prescribed sedatives. In order to reduce swelling, it is recommended to take diuretics. With the low efficiency of the measures taken, which is observed with a neglected form of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, the only option is surgery.
Conservative treatment for osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is based on several principles.
- The fight against painful manifestations and signs of local inflammation in the tissues is carried out with the use of analgesics and NSAIDs.
- Elimination of increased muscle tone that provokes pain - for this, doctors prescribe antispasmodics and muscle relaxants.
- Normalization of blood supply and nutrition of the affected vertebral structures - this role is taken by vasodilator drugs.
- Inhibition of the destruction of cartilaginous tissue - for this purpose, it is recommended to take chondroprotectors.
To improve the general well-being of the patient, vitamin complexes with a predominance of B vitamins are prescribed. With an exacerbation of the pathology, when the action of the tablets is insufficient, the attending specialist may prescribe injections of drugs with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Treatment for osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine necessarily includes therapeutic exercises. Exercise therapy helps not only to eliminate the clinical manifestations of the disease, but also allows you to slow down the development of degenerative-dystrophic changes in the vertebral structures. Her main actions:
- Elimination of pain in the spine, spasms.
- Activation of blood supply and lymph flow in the affected area.
- Increase in the amplitude of movements in the spine.
- Increasing muscle tone, strengthening them.
Only a specialist can prescribe a set of exercises for osteochondrosis of the thoracic zone, who must take into account the patient's condition, the degree of degenerative lesions in the spine, the stage of pathology, and the presence of complications. In the acute period, sudden movements are prohibited, only breathing exercises are allowed, as well as exercises that contribute to stretching the spinal column. During remission, daily special exercises should become a habit in order to slow down negative changes in the spine as much as possible.
Massage for osteochondrosis is an integral part of therapy, with the exception of the period of exacerbation of the spine disease. Such types of manipulations are used as classical, vacuum, acupressure massage. It has the following effects on the body:
- Reduces the severity of pain in the spine.
- Relieves spasmodic manifestations.
- Stimulates the process of blood supply to the tissues of the spine.
- It activates the regenerative abilities of the body.
- Increases the conductivity of nerve fiber impulses.
In addition to professional manipulations, which are carried out in specialized offices, the option of self-massage of the spine is allowed. You must first study the recommended techniques and adhere to the rules for performing the procedure.
The thoracic spine is least likely to suffer from degenerative-dystrophic changes. But this does not make the disease less serious. It is important to take care of your spine in time - in this case, you will be able to avoid many serious consequences. After all, the defeat of the vertebral structures is an irreversible process. It can only be stopped in order to maintain the mobility of the spine for a long time.