Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine
- What is thoracic osteochondrosis?
- Symptoms of the thoracic osteochondrosis
- Causes of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region
- What to do during an exacerbation?
- Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region
- Preventive measures
Modern medicine defines three types of osteochondrosis of the spine, manifested in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions. Unlike other types of this pathology, osteochondrosis that has developed in the thoracic region is diagnosed much less often.
This is due to the special structure of the middle part of the human back, in which the mobility of the intervertebral discs is significantly limited and, accordingly, the risk of injury is reduced. As early as 20 years ago, a disease such as osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, was detected mainly in elderly people. Today, the number of patients with this diagnosis includes representatives of the female and male half of the population of a wide age category, and even children.
Osteochondrosis of the chest is an insidious ailment, since it is difficult to diagnose. Sharp and severe chest pain is the main symptom of the problem. However, such pain is of a nature with pneumonia, gastritis, pancreatitis, renal colic, or with ischemic conditions and with myocardial infarction. Due to the fact that the thoracic part of the spine is always inactive, there are rarely any formations of hernias or serious displacements of the vertebrae.
Osteochondrosis of the chest often occurs in people with a rather inactive lifestyle. In addition, the main risk group includes those people who work in a sitting position for a long time, stoop and do not change their body position.
In other words, thoracic osteochondrosis can be called a dystrophic degenerative change in the important intervertebral discs of the sternum, which includes 12 vertebrae. The least mobile zone is located here, which is well protected by a muscle corset.
What is osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine?
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is a disease in which dystrophic and degenerative processes develop, leading to pathological changes in cartilage and bone tissues. Untimely treatment of this disease leads not only to a change in the structure of the ligaments, intervertebral discs and joints, but also to their destruction. Very often, against the background of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, the following ailments develop: pneumosclerosis, infertility (there is a degeneration or atrophy of the reproductive system), malignant neoplasms, atherosclerosis, prostatitis, etc.
During the formation of osteochondrosis in patients, first of all, bone damage occurs, after which the disease affects cartilage, connective and muscle tissues. If the disease develops in children or young people, then their musculoskeletal system begins to age even before the full maturation and formation of the body. According to the available statistics, published in specialized media, osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is equally common in women and men, and there are no age restrictions for this disease.
Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine
With osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, characteristic symptoms are observed:
Painful sensations in the chest, developing as a result of a long stay of a person in one position (pain can occur with any movement of the body, as well as during physical exertion and when lifting heavy objects);
- A squeezing sensation in the mid-back that makes it difficult and painful to take a deep breath in and out;
- Pain syndrome that appears during active movement, raising the upper limbs, with bending and sharp turns of the body;
- Constant dull or aching pain in the area of the shoulder blades;
- Numbness in certain areas of the body;
- Chills or "creeping chills";
- Local decrease in temperature in the lower extremities;
- Burning or itching in the legs;
- In case of malfunctions in the vascular system of the thoracic spine, peeling appears on the skin, the nail plate becomes thinner and its fragility increases;
- Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract (nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, heartburn, constipation, flatulence);
- Problems with reproductive and sexual function;
- Intercostal neuralgia.
Very often, the symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine are similar to those of other, no less serious diseases. That is why narrow-profile specialists conduct a comprehensive examination of patients in order to exclude myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, pneumonia and gastroenterology of the disease.
Pain sensations in osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine are of two types:
- Dorsalgia (prolonged pain in the area of the affected intervertebral discs);
- Dorsago (intense and sharp pain that appears in the form of seizures, constricting muscles and interfering with normal breathing).
One of the most striking manifestations of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is gastralgic syndrome, in which pain is usually observed in the epigastric region. Such symptoms are not associated with the season (in patients with gastritis, exacerbations begin in spring and autumn), as well as with the diet.
During an exacerbation of osteochondrosis in patients, the intervertebral discs of the thoracic region are severely affected, however, due to the characteristic gastroenterological symptoms, people end up in medical institutions with the following diagnoses: pancreatitis, cholecystitis, colitis, urolithiasis and other diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. To make the correct diagnosis, the specialist must show maximum attention when taking anamnesis and prescribe the necessary tests and studies.
Causes of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine
The reasons for the development of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine include the following factors:
- Any pathological changes in the intervertebral discs. This includes a hereditary predisposition to this disease, which can manifest itself in a patient at any age;
- Herniated discs and thinning discs are also the causes of osteochondrosis;
- Osteophytes and destroyed cartilage tissues;
- Disruption of blood supply to the spinal cord, which occurs due to clamping or narrowing of the veins and supplying arteries;
- Dystrophic changes in cartilage, bone and muscle tissues, which occur as a result of irrational physical stress on the spinal column;
- Violation of mineral metabolism in the body (lack of calcium and other nutrients);
- Regular weight lifting;
- A sedentary lifestyle (many people now spend most of their time at the computer or driving a motor vehicle, often in an uncomfortable position);
Curvature of the spine, in which an uneven physical effect is exerted on the intervertebral discs;
- Postponed injuries (blows, bruises, falls);
- Strength and active sports (often people get spinal injuries during sports training).
What to do during an exacerbation?
During an exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, patients begin to experience sudden acute pain (dorsago), which cannot be stopped on their own. In no case should you self-medicate during this period, since improper actions can lead to serious negative consequences.
If a patient has an exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, he should consult a neurologist who will conduct a set of diagnostic measures and prescribe an effective therapy. During an exacerbation, patients may experience the following symptoms: nausea, headaches (similar in intensity to migraines), deterioration in general health, loss of mobility in the back.
The following factors can provoke an exacerbation of osteochondrosis in the thoracic region:
- Nervous shocks and stress;
- Too difficult working conditions and overwork;
- Lifting weights;
- Active sports.
During an attack of the dorsago, the patient experiences excruciating suffering and very often loses mobility. He may also have difficulty breathing (especially when breathing in and out deeply). During the entire period of exacerbation of such a category of patients, it is recommended to stay in bed so as not to provoke the appearance of muscle spasms and lumbago.
That is why, in the stage of exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region, patients are delivered to medical institutions by ambulance. In a hospital setting, it is easier for specialists to stop pain syndrome and monitor the well-being of patients. In the first stages of therapy, doctors prescribe medications to patients with exacerbation of osteochondrosis that can quickly relieve muscle spasms. With the development of a severe pain syndrome, drugs from the group of analgesics, anti-inflammatory ointments and physiotherapeutic procedures are prescribed.
If a patient is diagnosed with one of the most serious complications of osteochondrosis - intervertebral hernia of the thoracic region - he is prescribed more constructive treatment. A small protrusion can cause pain in various parts of the spinal column. A large hernia can cause disruption of the innervation of the entire lower trunk, as well as loss of functionality of many internal organs.
In such a situation, it is impossible to do without surgical intervention. This category of patients is assigned a comprehensive hardware and laboratory examination, including X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging. After the exclusion of all diseases with similar symptoms, the patient is operated on.
During the period of exacerbation of thoracic osteochondrosis, patients should adhere to the following recommendations:
- Restriction of mobility and physical activity (bed rest is desirable);
- Correct balanced diet;
- Accurate intake of all medications prescribed by the attending physician;
- Self-massage and gentle rubbing of problem areas;
- Physiotherapy exercises (if indicated);
- Rubbing the recommended ointments, gels or creams into the thoracic spine;
- Physiotherapy procedures (only after consulting a doctor).
On the subject: What can and cannot be done with osteochondrosis?
Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine
If people diagnosed with osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine do not have manifestations of a neuralgic nature, then this should not be a reason for refusing complex therapy. Modern medicine offers the latest methods of treating this disease, which allow to slow down any pathological changes in the spinal column, in particular, in the intervertebral discs.
Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region begins with a set of diagnostic measures. When visiting a neurologist, the patient must tell him about all the clearly manifested symptoms of the disease. The specialist will collect an anamnesis of the disease, conduct a personal examination, palpate the area of the thoracic spine (this will reveal herniated discs) and send the patient for additional examination. First of all, the patient will need to visit the laboratory and pass the necessary blood and urine tests.
After that, the patient is sent for X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging. An X-ray image will reveal the location of the vertebral pathology.
Magnetic resonance imaging allows a deeper study of the state of the musculoskeletal system and early detection of malignant and benign neoplasms.
As soon as the doctor confirms his initial diagnosis, he will begin to draw up a treatment program. The key to a quick and successful recovery of a patient is complex therapy, which includes taking medications, injections, using creams, ointments and gels, undergoing physiotherapy procedures and physical therapy. Currently, many Russian medical institutions are equipped with modern equipment that allows even very complex but effective surgical manipulations with the spine.
Treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine can be carried out using the following physiotherapeutic techniques:
- Laser therapy;
- Vacuum therapy;
- Dry and wet traction;
- Pharmacopuncture, etc.
If the disease is not at an advanced stage, then it will be enough for the patient to undergo 15 treatment sessions to get rid of back pain for a long time.
Exercise therapy for chest osteochondrosis
With osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, patients are prescribed physiotherapy exercises, the main purpose of which is to increase the mobility of the costal-vertebral and intervertebral joints. Exercise therapy (subject to regular and correct exercise) allows you to eliminate even very strong muscle spasms. Moderate physical activity will help relieve spinal stiffness that occurs with a weak muscle corset.
Daily activities, supervised by an experienced instructor, will have a beneficial effect on the entire body, and in particular on the respiratory system. Patients will have improved ventilation of the lungs, and they will be able to take deep breaths and exhales painlessly.
Exercises for osteochondrosis of the thoracic region
Before starting exercise therapy, experts strongly recommend doing a general warm-up, which will help warm up the muscles and make the workout more effective. Patients can take a warm shower, followed by self-massage of the thoracic spine.
It is especially important to pre-warm up the muscles for those patients with osteochondrosis of the thoracic region, who for the first time start physical therapy. For a general warm-up, you can use the following exercises: swinging the upper and lower extremities, rotational movements and turns of the trunk, neck and pelvis. When starting a workout, patients should remember that all exercises should be performed smoothly and without haste. If any movement causes severe pain, it is recommended to stop immediately and rest for a few minutes.
As soon as the painful sensations completely disappear, you can try again to perform the set of exercises, slightly reducing the load. In the future, the issue of increasing physical activity must be coordinated with the attending physician.
To date, the course of physiotherapy exercises prescribed for osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine includes 8 basic exercises:
- The patient should lie on the floor, face down. After that, throw both hands behind your head, while spreading your elbows wide to the sides. The shoulders should be gently lifted up with the body, after which the right and left elbows should alternately follow in the same direction. The exercise is repeated up to 6 times in 1 lesson;
- The person lies on his stomach and puts both hands behind his back, fastening them in a lock. Bending the trunk, you need to try to lift the bound limbs up and hold them in this position for a few seconds. It is necessary to return to the starting position very smoothly;
- Standing on the floor, the patient should put his hands behind the shoulders. After that, one should try to raise the shoulders one by one (the head should move in the same direction as the shoulder);
- The patient needs to lie on his stomach, on a hard surface. Stretch your hands forward, while slightly raising the body. The exercise is performed several times, after which it must be complicated (arms should be extended along the body);
- The person sits on a chair and puts both hands on his belt. After that, the shoulder girdle should begin to move, rising and smoothly lowering to its original position. At the peak of the rise, you need to linger for a few seconds. The exercise is repeated 5 times per workout;
- To perform this exercise, the patient must use a gymnastic stick (plastic or wooden). To begin with, he should sit on a chair, after which, while inhaling, try to reach up, holding a gymnastic apparatus in his hands. On exhalation, the arms are lowered to their original position, and the torso is tilted forward;
- Using the same gymnastic stick, you need to stand on the floor and try to get your hands (they must have a gymnastic apparatus) behind your shoulders. In this position, it is necessary to tilt the body to the right and left. If a patient has scoliosis in addition to osteochondrosis, it is contraindicated for him to do this exercise;
- Sitting on a chair equipped with a strong back, the patient should lean on it, and, if possible, try to bend back. When performing this exercise, the patient's thoracic spine is maximally used.
On the subject: Therapeutic exercises for osteochondrosis
Massage for chest osteochondrosis
For patients diagnosed with osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, experts recommend taking a course of therapeutic massage. A visit to the massage room is included both in the complex therapy of the disease and in the scheme of preventive measures. Massage courses are recommended at least 2 times a year.
During or after an exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, massage is performed in compliance with special rules and restrictions. Dexterous movements of the hands of an experienced masseur can tone the muscles of the back, relieve general fatigue and pain. A massage course will help strengthen the muscle corset and eliminate the spasms that often occur with this disease. Massage for osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine must be carried out on a table specially designed for such procedures.
The patient must lie face down on the table, and a special roller is necessarily placed under his chest (can be replaced with a solid pillow).
The following types of massage are often prescribed for this category of patients:
- Classical. With osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, the following movements are made to patients during the massage: light stroking from top to bottom, kneading, pinching, vibration and rubbing. A massage session should last no more than 20 minutes (the course consists of 12-15 sessions);
- Point. The specialist selects both acupuncture points and pain points. Physical effects should be exerted on them clockwise and vice versa. The masseur, making circular movements, presses with the pads of his fingers on the right place, lingers on it for several minutes and continues the manipulation. Gradually, the pressing force should increase, but in no case should the occurrence of pain be allowed;
- Segmental. With osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, this type of massage can significantly improve blood flow in the affected area. Active blood flow stimulates lymph drainage, thereby enriching soft tissues with oxygen;
- Canned. During the session, the specialist uses cups that provide a vacuum effect on the area of the thoracic spine. This type of massage enhances blood circulation and lymph drainage not only around the spinal column, but also in nearby organs. In patients who have undergone such manipulations, muscle tone increases, pathological reflexes disappear, and the processes of microcirculation of lymph, blood and intercellular fluid are accelerated. Before visiting a masseur, patients should consult their attending physician, since the cupping effect on the thoracic spine is not recommended for everyone (there are many contraindications);
- Honey. This type of massage is absolutely safe and suitable for almost everyone, except for patients with allergies to bee products. During the session, the specialist uses natural bee honey, which he spreads on his palms and applies them to the patient's thoracic spine, making stroking and rubbing movements. After the honey is absorbed, a white, non-sticky substance will remain on the skin, which can be easily removed with a damp cloth. The duration of the session is 30 minutes.
To prevent the appearance or exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, it is recommended to carry out preventive measures at regular intervals. General hypothermia should be avoided, as well as intense physical exertion should be abandoned. People who are forced to work in difficult conditions should monitor their posture, not be in an uncomfortable position for a long time and not lift heavy objects.
Experts have developed a set of exercises that can be performed both at home and in the workplace during lunchtime. For example, sit on a chair and lean back, then pull your arms and torso up. Self-massage will also help relieve tension and tone your muscles. Such charging must be interrupted several times during the work shift.
Proper nutrition in the prevention of osteochondrosis
With osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, as with any other disease, patients should eat properly. A balanced daily menu will allow you to normalize the work of all internal organs and body systems. Diet food is an ideal means of preventing osteochondrosis and significantly increases the patient's chances of a successful cure. The development of the menu should be carried out by a professional nutritionist or a narrow-profile specialist who treats diseases of the musculoskeletal system.
The main emphasis in the nutrition of a patient with osteochondrosis is made on the rejection of salt. This category of patients is recommended to consume vegetables, fruits, herbs, lean meat and low-fat fish on a daily basis.
The following products are excluded from the patient's diet:
- Smoked products;
- Spicy and fried foods;
- Sugar, salt, and spices should be limited as much as possible.
You should not drink carbonated sweet drinks, it is better to give your preference to herbal decoctions or tea. Alcohol (in any form) and products containing large doses of caffeine (strong coffee, energy drinks) are completely excluded from the patient's diet.
On the subject: What can and cannot be eaten with osteochondrosis? Menu for the week
Correct sleeping position
In order to prevent osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine, patients should normalize their sleep. For a night's rest, it is better to purchase an orthopedic mattress and the same pillow.
During sleep, the patient's torso should be in the correct position. A firm surface will help the spine regain its shape faster. If the patient is not accustomed to sleeping on firm mattresses, at first he may experience pain and discomfort, which will disappear after his vertebrae take their natural position.
Learning to sit correctly
Each person should monitor their posture, since while sitting in the wrong posture, a negative physical impact is exerted on their spine, which can lead to both deformation of the vertebrae and more serious damage.
With a sedentary lifestyle, people should properly equip their workplace: a chair should be chosen with a high back, on which you can periodically lean your back.
Vehicle owners should install ergonomic seats that reduce the amount of stress placed on their spine while driving. When driving, they are advised to keep their backs straight and avoid routes longer than 3 hours. If the driver has a long trip ahead, he should make frequent stops along the route, during which you can walk near the car or do a short warm-up.
Following such recommendations, motorists, system administrators, office clerks and people who prefer to spend their free time watching their favorite TV programs will never face such a disease as osteochondrosis.
Each patient who is diagnosed with osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine should not self-medicate. Patients should go to medical institutions in which narrow-profile specialists will provide them with qualified assistance. When choosing a method of treatment, you can use medicines, traditional medicine and physiotherapeutic measures in combination. You should not risk your health, since any mistake in the case of diseases of the spine can lead to irreparable consequences.
The author of the article: Volkov Dmitry Sergeevich | c. m. n. surgeon, phlebologist
Education: Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry (1996). In 2003 he received a diploma from the Educational and Scientific Medical Center of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation.