Thoracic degenerative disc disease refers to the degeneration, or breakdown, of the shock-absorbing intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae in the upper and middle back (called the thoracic spine).

It develops most frequently in middle-aged people or young adults with active lifestyles.

It appears that the aging process, trauma, and arthritis contribute to disc degeneration. Genetic, environmental, and autoimmune factors are also thought to play a role, as are lifestyle factors, such as smoking or strenuous repetitive activities, such as lifting or gymnastics.

When a disc degenerates, painful bone-on-bone rubbing may occur.

Abnormal bone growths, called bone spurs or osteophytes, can form in the joint, impinge on the spinal cord, and limit the mobility of the thoracic spine. The bone spurs may also cause pain and swelling. If compression on the spinal cord is severe, it may cause numbness, tingling and weakness in the legs.

A Lancaster Orthopedic Group spine specialist can diagnose a degenerative disc by performing a physical examination, reviewing your symptoms and medical history, and evaluating X-rays, MRIs and/or CT scans.

In many patients, thoracic degenerative disc disease is treated conservatively with anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, non-impact aerobic exercises (e.g., walking or bicycling), and physical therapy.

Depending on the extent of your condition, surgery may be recommended when conservative treatments have provided little or no improvement of your symptoms.