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All About Thoracic Disc Herniation

All About Thoracic Disc Herniation

Thoracic disc herniation is less common than its lumbar or cervical counterparts but can still cause significant discomfort and impairment. In this blog, Dr. John Regan and the team here at Spine Group Beverly Hills shed light on this lesser-known type of disc herniation. 

Here’s everything you need to know about thoracic disc herniation. 

Defining thoracic disc herniation

Simply put, thoracic disc herniations are disc herniations that occur in your thoracic spine. To fully embrace that definition, you need to think about what your thoracic spine is and what exactly happens when you have a herniation.

What is your thoracic spine?

The word "thoracic" originates from the Latin word "thorax," which refers to the chest or trunk of the body. The thoracic spine refers to the middle spine, consisting of 12 vertebrae, labeled T1 through T12 running from the base of your neck down to the base of your ribs. 


Everything above that is considered your cervical (neck) spine and everything below is considered your lumbar spine. Any herniation that affects T1 through T12 is considered a thoracic disc herniation. The most common location of a thoracic disc herniation is at T7 and T8.

What happens when you have a herniation?

Disc herniations occur when the soft inner core of a disc in your thoracic spine protrudes through the tough outer layer, which puts pressure on nearby nerves or your spinal cord itself. This can result in pain, numbness, weakness, and other symptoms depending on the location and severity of the herniation.

Risk factors of thoracic disc herniation 

There are several potential risk factors and causes of thoracic disc herniation including:


As you age, the discs in your spine undergo wear and tear, which makes them more susceptible to herniation. 


Injury or trauma to the thoracic spine can cause disc herniation. For example, a fall or a sports injury that leads to a sudden impact on your upper back can contribute to a thoracic disc herniation.

Repetitive strain

Certain occupations or activities that involve repetitive movements or heavy lifting can increase the risk of disc herniation. Reaching up and twisting at the same time can also exacerbate your symptoms.

Symptoms of thoracic disc herniation

The symptoms of thoracic disc herniation can vary depending on the location and severity of your herniation. Common signs and symptoms include:

Because some herniations on higher vertebrae (e.g. T2) can be mistaken for cervical disc disease, it’s important to know exactly what’s causing your pain.

Diagnosing and treating thoracic disc herniation

An accurate diagnosis is your first step in feeling better. Diagnosing thoracic disc herniation typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans. 

Once Dr. Regan confirms the source of your pain, he may recommend treatment options such as medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy. If conservative options aren’t enough to ease your symptoms, Dr Regan may suggest minimally invasive disc replacement surgery

If you have back pain and suspect you have a disc herniation (in any part of your spine!), give our Beverly Hills, California, a call at 424-238-3281. Or, simply click here to request an appointment.

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