Thoracic herniated disc causes do not typically mirror those of cervical and lumbar bulging discs. The intervertebral discs in the thoracic spine are not subjected to the same spinal degeneration as those in the upper and lower spinal regions. Therefore, most herniations in the thoracic area are a direct result of significant trauma, rather than encouraged by the aging process.
The thoracic region enjoys the lowest incidence of disc pathologies and other forms of degenerative structural abnormalities. Although there are some location-specific dorsalgia syndromes which can affect the thoracic region, most people will not demonstrate symptomatic expressions in the mid or upper back regions during their lifetimes. For those patients who do have upper back pain, the source is more often muscular than spinally-enacted.
This essay profiles the typical causes of herniated discs in the upper thoracic spinal region.
Trauma to the middle or upper back can cause any disc to bulge or rupture, regardless of where it resides in the spine. In order to injure a large and healthy thoracic disc, the trauma needs to be considerable and in some cases, extreme. The most common sources of thoracic trauma include car accidents, falls, acts of violence, surgical injury and sporting injuries.
Herniations in the thoracic spine are also less likely to be symptomatic, since the middle back does not have the same demands placed on it as the other spinal levels. Very few thoracic herniated discs are troublesome and most exist without anyone even knowing of the abnormality.
In some rare cases, degeneration can cause or contribute to a herniated disc in the thoracic spine. This is most evident in patients who demonstrate abnormal spinal curvature issues, such as severe thoracolumbar scoliosis or thoracic hyperkyphosis.
Patients who have endured a spinal fusion surgery close to the thoracic levels may also have a degenerative domino effect into the mid back, advancing the typical spinal deterioration far beyond what would normally occur.
It is virtually unheard of for a patient with a normal spine to suffer any advanced degeneration in the middle back levels, but it is certainly possible in theory, given highly specific circumstances or hereditary disposition.
Thoracic herniations are the least often treated, the least written about and the least feared, since they are rare and generally not problematic. Compared to the vast number of lumbar and cervical herniated discs, thoracic issues just do not even register on the scale. However, these facts do not help you if you are one of the few who actually has a painful complaint due to a bulging disc in the middle or upper back.
Just remember the facts when investigating your condition and never exclude the possibility of the disc being coincidental to your pain and a scapegoat for your symptoms, especially if the herniation is minor and non-neurologically influencing.