Degenerative-dystrophic diseases of the spine are a kind of human payment for upright walking. It is known that other mammals do not suffer from osteochondrosis, since their vertebral column is located horizontally to the earth's surface. Vertical loads during walking lead to the gradual destruction of the cartilaginous tissue of the intervertebral discs and contribute to the displacement of the vertebrae into a dangerous position.
In the thoracic region, such processes occur less often than in the sacral and cervical, but this does not diminish the danger of this disease. This article will discuss in detail the issues of symptoms and treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region, as well as items related to the prevention of this disease.
Features of thoracic osteochondrosis
The thoracic spine is characterized by low mobility, which reduces the likelihood of degenerative processes in this area. Nevertheless, cases of this disease are regularly recorded by orthopedists and traumatologists in representatives of different age groups.
In recent decades, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of osteochondrosis in civilized countries. Doctors believe that the main reasons for this trend are an inactive lifestyle, poor diet and the general environmental background on the planet.
Women suffer from thoracic osteochondrosis 2-3 times more often than men. This is due to the peculiarities of female anatomy and physiology. Additional influencing factors are: childbirth, walking in heels, general weakness of the musculo-ligamentous apparatus in women.
In both sexes, osteochondrosis of the thoracic region causes painful symptoms and reduces the range of motion. The progression of pathology is fraught with compression of the nerve endings, which inevitably affects the state of the internal organs. The advanced cases of the disease are often accompanied by disturbances in the work of blood vessels and heart, breathing problems.
Anatomically, 12 thoracic vertebrae are connected to the ribs and sternum into a strong and inactive frame structure that protects the internal organs from mechanical stress. At the initial stage, the disease almost does not cause severe symptoms, but in the later stages, the manifestations of pathology are so diverse that sometimes this prevents an accurate diagnosis. No wonder osteochondrosis is often called "chameleon disease".
The most common causes of thoracic osteochondrosis are trauma, weakness of the muscular apparatus, physical inactivity, metabolic disorders, excessive load on the back, and genetic predisposition. The disease develops gradually, which, on the one hand, makes it possible to start treatment on time and stop degenerative processes, but on the other hand, it prevents the early detection of pathology.
Doctors classify thoracic osteochondrosis by stages of development:
Stage 1.The intervertebral discs lose their elastic qualities, decrease in size, but have not yet shifted from their anatomical position.
Stage 2.There is a further decrease in the height of the discs, and the spinal column itself loses its stability. Cracks form in the annulus, the discs shift and put pressure on the nerve endings, blood vessels and muscles. The second stage is characterized by severe back pain and neurological symptoms.
Stage 3.Degenerative processes can lead to the development of protrusions and ruptures of the annulus fibrosus. In such cases, herniated discs are diagnosed. Disks lose their cushioning properties and cease to perform their proper anatomical functions. The vertebrae themselves also suffer - they come together, collapse and form osteophytes - dangerous bone growths.
In addition to hard tissues, muscles, ligaments and tendons are affected. Muscles are blocked, spasmodic phenomena occur in them. The body tries to immobilize the affected area as much as possible in order to reduce pain - this leads to congestion in the muscles and muscle atrophy.
Thoracic osteochondrosis symptoms
As already mentioned, in the onset stage, thoracic osteochondrosis manifests itself weakly or does not manifest itself at all. As the pathology progresses, periodic pains arise between the shoulder blades: the symptoms intensify after physical activity or, conversely, after prolonged rest. Often, pain bothers patients in the morning after waking up and weakens within an hour. Sometimes the pain moves along the intercostal nerve, radiating to the chest when coughing, sneezing, or running.
At 2-3 stages, the most indicative symptom of osteochondrosis of the thoracic region is constant aching pain in the interscapular zone. Chest pains are also quite typical: sensations resemble an attack of angina pectoris with coronary artery disease or heart failure.
The similarity of symptoms to heart disease is a fairly common cause of misdiagnosis. However, it is quite simple to distinguish pain in degenerative processes in the spine from cardiac symptoms: nitroglycerin and similar drugs that relieve angina attacks, with osteochondrosis, do not alleviate the patient's condition in any way.
Other characteristic symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis:
- Stiffness of the muscles of the trunk during deep breathing (dorsalgia) - as if the body was squeezed with a hoop;
- Dorsago - a sharp pain in the chest (the so-called "chest lumbago");
- Feeling of goose bumps and numbness in the hands (in the presence of radicular syndrome);
- Intercostal pain during walking and physical activity (intercostal neuralgia): with inflammation of the nerve endings, the pain becomes constant;
- Spasms in the thoracic back;
- Pain on raising arms, turning the torso and taking deep breaths.
The stages of the disease directly affect the intensity of the symptoms. For patients in the therapeutic plan, it is important not to eliminate pain with drugs and unconventional methods (analgesics, antispasmodics, various ointments, compresses and heating pads), but to visit the clinic and find out the cause of the pain from a doctor. Self-treatment for osteochondrosis is rarely effective, and in some cases even aggravates the course of the disease.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic zone is often disguised as other pathologies, causing their symptoms. This complicates diagnosis and is often the cause of inadequate treatment.
Atypical manifestations of the disease are very diverse:
- Signs of ischemia, heart attack, heart attack (ECG or other tests should be performed for differential diagnosis);
- Pains reminiscent of breast diseases in women: to exclude the presence of neoplasms, you should be examined by a mammologist;
- Pains resembling gastritis, colitis, stomach or intestinal ulcers, hepatitis - to exclude these diseases, a diagnosis is prescribed by a gastroenterologist;
- Paroxysmal girdle pains corresponding to renal colic or other diseases of the urinary system.
Urinary disorders and reproductive system disorders are also possible. Women have anorgasmia, painful and heavy menstruation (menorrhagia), and sometimes infertility. Men suffer from erectile dysfunction. Doctors do not always manage to find the true cause of these pathologies, and therefore the treatment of reproductive diseases does not give positive dynamics.
Sometimes, with osteochondrosis in the thoracic region, pressure surges, toothaches and headaches, sleep disturbances, tinnitus are observed. Psychoemotional disorders are not excluded - irritability, depression, tearfulness, anxiety.
Diagnostics, therapy and prevention
External examination, palpation, range of motion tests are performed to detect the disease. It is important to learn in detail from the patient about the duration of the symptoms, their nature, and concomitant manifestations of the disease.
The following procedures are prescribed:
- X-ray of the spine;
- MRI, CT and ultrasound of the abdominal cavity (if necessary);
- Blood and urine tests;
- ECG (to exclude cardiac pathologies).
After the diagnosis is made, a treatment regimen is developed. There is no single protocol for the treatment of osteochondrosis: wellness procedures depend on the patient's condition, his age, physical condition, and the status of the immune system.
The main goal of treatment is to minimize the consequences of degenerative processes in cartilage tissue and prevent the development of complications. Therapy is usually outpatient, except in particularly severe clinical situations. Mostly conservative therapy is practiced.
Medications are prescribed only for severe pain syndrome and inflammatory processes. It is preferable to use drugs in the form of external ointments, less often tablets are prescribed, intramuscular or epidural injections.
Most Topical Drug Types:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs;
- Muscle relaxants and antispasmodics;
- Vitamin complexes;
Experienced therapists will never offer purely drug-based therapy. Once the pain and inflammation have subsided, the medication is stopped.
Physiotherapy, exercise therapy, massage
These methods play a leading role in the treatment of degenerative diseases of the thoracic spine. These techniques eliminate pain, strengthen ligaments and muscles, restore and stimulate blood circulation, metabolic processes.
Popular physical therapy methods:
- Electro- and phonophoresis;
- Laser exposure;
- Amplipulse therapy;
- Ultrasound treatment;
- Paraffin applications;
- Kinesio taping;
- Mud therapy;
- Hirudotherapy, treatment with bee venom.
The main advantage of physiotherapy is its safety. The procedures can be prescribed at any age, with almost any concomitant diseases. A separate area of physiotherapy is reflexology (acupuncture). The method is effective, but requires the presence of a professional specialist.
Physiotherapy is a mandatory stage in the treatment of thoracic osteochondrosis. Gymnastics strengthens the muscular apparatus, restores the normal anatomical position of the vertebral structures, reduces pressure on nerve endings, and prevents the development of protrusions and hernias of intervertebral discs.
Complex exercises should be performed regularly and over a long period of time - only in this case they will produce a noticeable therapeutic effect. Ideally, the sessions should be conducted under the guidance of an instructor, as any incorrect movement can injure and cause pain.
Massage (manual and hardware effects) has the same therapeutic tasks as exercise therapy: pain relief, blood flow improvement, muscle strengthening. In addition to the impact with the hands of a specialist, they practice the use of massagers, applicators, orthopedic devices.
Surgery for osteochondrosis of the breast in modern medical institutions is resorted to in exceptional cases - when there is a real danger of pinching the spinal cord or there are dangerous protrusions and hernias. Spine surgery is always an additional risk, so interventions are rarely performed and only by experienced surgeons.
Preventing disease is much easier than long-term (and sometimes lifelong) therapy. Alas, modern medicine cannot reverse degenerative processes, it can only minimize the consequences of pathology and eliminate acute symptoms.
For this reason, the prevention of osteochondrosis should be dealt with from childhood. The development of the disease is hindered by: correct posture, balanced nutrition, correct alternation of physical activity and rest, sleep on a comfortable bed. A positive role is played by the timely diagnosis of the disease and the strict implementation of the doctor's recommendations.