The thoracic spine is located in the middle of the back, between the cervical (upper) spine and lumbar (lower) spine. This portion of the spine is meant to support the rib cage and provide proper posture for the body.
The 12 vertebrae that make up the thoracic spine, commonly referred to as T1-T12, each have two facet joint sets — one set on the top and one set on the bottom — that are responsible for providing the middle back with flexibility and strength. These facet joints connect the surrounding vertebrae and allow them to pivot and rotate, although there is not as much movement in the thoracic spine as other areas of the spine because the vertebrae in the middle back are attached to the rib cage.
Breakdown of the thoracic facet joints
Because the thoracic facet joints are not as active as the cervical or lumbar facet joints, the thoracic area of the spine is not as prone to damage as other areas of the spine. As the vertebrae continually pivot and move, the cartilage lining on the facet joint can wear down, making the facet joint prone to inflammation and swelling, which could lead to joint stiffness. This condition is often diagnosed as spinal arthritis or facet disease.
While the natural aging process is the most common cause of facet disease in the thoracic spine, there are a number of other contributing factors, including:
- Trauma or other injury
- Poor posture
- Being overweight or obese
- Repetitive bending or twisting
The deterioration of a thoracic facet joint can cause middle back pain and stiffness, which can be extremely frustrating and can prevent you from enjoying your daily activities.
Treatment options for conditions affecting the thoracic facet joints
Treatment of the symptoms can often be managed with a conservative course that includes therapy, pain medication, and heat or ice application. Occasionally, elective surgery may be required to treat the symptoms of facet disease in the thoracic spine. If you have been diagnosed with a condition affecting the facet joints of the spine and are considering a surgical procedure, contact USA Spine Care to learn more about the advantages of minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery.
Because we take a muscle-sparing approach to the spine, our patients experience a lower risk of surgical complication and a shorter recovery time^ compared to patients who undergo traditional open back surgery.
To see if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact USA Spine Care today and ask for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*
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