Thoracic nerve root entrapment, also called thoracic radiculopathy, refers to a series of symptoms that originate in the thoracic spine (middle of the back) due to entrapment or compression of the nerve root. Compared to lumbar (lower back) nerve root entrapment and cervical (neck) nerve root entrapment, thoracic nerve root entrapment is relatively rare.

Conditions that may cause thoracic nerve root impingement include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spur
  • Spinal injury
  • Spinal stenosis

The nerves that exit the thoracic area of the spine provide sensation and motor control to the back, trunk, chest, arms and internal organs. Compression of these nerves may cause pain that travels from the site of the pinched nerve around to the chest, shoulders, arms and hands. Some individuals experience weakness or numbness, and sitting or walking may become increasingly difficult.

After an initial physical exam, one of Lancaster Orthopedic Group’s spine specialists may recommend an MRI or CT scan to determine the location of an entrapped or compressed nerve root and establish the best course of treatment.

In mild cases, rest, ice, anti-inflammatory and pain medication, and stretching exercises may be enough to relieve the symptoms of thoracic nerve root entrapment. Your doctor may also recommend injections, such as facet injections, nerve blocks or an epidural. If the symptoms persist or worsen, surgery may be recommended to release entrapment and remove the degenerative changes that are compromising the nerve.