Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is much less common compared to a similar pathology that affects adjacent segments. This is due to the strengthening effect of the chest - a strong and flexible structure made of ribs supports the intervertebral joints well. Even though osteochondrosis develops in this segment, it rarely reaches the late stages. The ribs partially relieve the load on the cartilaginous discs, preventing them from collapsing under intense and prolonged stress.
Osteochondrosis of the chest often develops in men - they naturally have to do more difficult and harmful work. But if a woman is in similar working conditions, the risk of osteochondrosis increases dramatically. Women's ligaments and muscles are naturally more flexible and extensible, which protects the weaker sex from degenerative chest damage.
In men, on the contrary, already in adulthood, there is an "ossification" of all mobile joints - first, these changes are observed in intercostal joints. Therefore, the clinical picture gradually develops, as it is associated with slow damage to the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae. The sooner a person determines the first symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis, the more effective and the shorter the subsequent treatment will be.
Thoracic osteochondrosis rarely occurs, even without minor manifestations, but in the early stages, patients generally simply do not notice the signs of the disease. Any discomfort is attributed to banal tiredness, which arose as a result of prolonged work or an uncomfortable posture. But the symptoms of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine have an insidious property - they develop by leaps and bounds.
That is, the progression of the manifestations does not occur gradually, but suddenly - under the influence of any external factors. Its development is subject to a certain mechanism that occurs in the joints between the vertebrae and the ribs:
- Throughout a person's life, the mobility of the chest decreases - this is due to the thickening of the connective tissue that connects the adjacent bones.
- From a long and heavy load, metabolic products accumulate in it, causing damage to the "soft" structures - ligaments and cartilage.
- In intercostal joints, they begin to be replaced by bone tissue, which forms small protuberances at the defect site.
- First, these pimples begin to irritate the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal cord in the vicinity. From the impact on them, there is a reflex contraction of the surrounding muscles - a spasm.
- It worsens impaired mobility, making the rib cage less flexible and elastic. From these changes, the nutrition of the surrounding tissues changes, as your blood supply deteriorates.
- A vicious circle gradually forms - impaired blood flow deprives soft tissues of the possibility of rapid recovery. If the load continues to act, osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine develops gradually.
The rate of disease progression depends on the severity of the harmful factors and the body's capabilities - in most patients, it remains in the early stages until old age.
In the early stages, it is difficult to establish thoracic osteochondrosis - the symptoms of the disease are still very nonspecific. Most patients lose the first degree of the disease, going to the doctor only when severe symptoms occur. But with a careful attitude towards your health, the signs of pathology can be easily identified:
- As the soft tissues are compacted in the area of the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae, their flexibility and elasticity decrease. Therefore, when stretching or exercising, there is pain and crushing in the thoracic region, which occurs between the shoulder blades.
- A similar sound can be heard in the clavicle or sternum, where the cartilage and connective tissue are also thickened.
- Along with them, the flexibility of the shoulder girdle is impaired, which is manifested by the difficulty of placing your hands behind your back. It becomes difficult for the patient to perform some movements - scratching the back, bringing the shoulder blades together.
- There is a feeling of discomfort in any part of the chest, but more often in the interscapular region. This is where most of the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal cord are projected in this section.
- Resistance to prolonged physical work and maintenance of posture decrease - a feeling of fatigue in the back appears quickly.
- There is a decrease in the depth of breathing - when you try to take a deep breath, your restriction is observed.
At this stage, the disease can be safely treated at home, since irreversible changes have not yet formed in the soft tissues of the joint region.
While the influence of negative factors persists, the signs of thoracic osteochondrosis begin to intensify - it is at this stage that patients usually seek help. The disease begins to significantly limit a person's activity - the symptoms interfere not only during work, but also during rest. Its occurrence is associated with the formation of persistent changes that lead to ossification of the costal-vertebral joints:
- Pain, which is the result of pressure on nerve roots, is already prominent among the symptoms. He has some characteristics - a character on fire or shooting, a connection to physical activity or a prolonged uncomfortable posture.
- Unpleasant sensations are usually determined between the shoulder blades, from where they spread along the ribs. The pain impulse is always one-sided.
- The intensity of this symptom depends entirely on the movements of the trunk or breathing - even with calm breathing, there is an increase in pain.
- The disease is distinguished from common intercostal neuralgia by the persistence of symptoms - in the first case, the pain syndrome passes by itself and quickly (in a few minutes). Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is distinguished by the duration of pain - they are continuous, decreasing only at rest.
- Discomfort and stiffness in the chest increases, which leads to a decrease in exercise tolerance. It becomes more difficult for the patient to perform work associated with prolonged stress.
At home, it is almost impossible to eliminate symptoms at this stage - they try to use a long course of medication, combined with physiotherapy procedures, for treatment.
In the final stage of the disease, there is a strong deformation of the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae. This puts pressure on the surrounding vessels and nerves, which are directed to Organs internal organs. Therefore, the symptoms of the disease acquire unusual characteristics, characteristics of another pathology:
- The painful syndrome persists, acquiring an intense and continuous character. The lumbago between the shoulder blades and along the ribs bothers the patient even at rest, which is associated with constant pressure on the nerve roots.
- There are areas of impaired sensitivity in the abdomen and chest - they look like stripes along the direction of the ribs. They are characterized by numbness, tingling or "crawling".
- Periodic reflex cramps of the abdominal muscles occur, accompanied by unpleasant sensations.
- As the nerves of Organs internal organs are involved in the process, symptoms of its defeat may occur. More often, false attacks of angina pectoris, hepatic or renal colic are observed, which simulate diseases of similar organs.
- Osteochondrosis of the chest often leads to the formation of irritable bowel syndrome - disorders of the digestive tract, the causes of which were not identified during the examination.
Even long-term treatment will not allow you to permanently get rid of symptoms if the patient maintains the disease to that degree. Supportive therapy will only reduce the signs of the disease, which is firmly ingrained in the thoracic spine.
How to treat thoracic osteochondrosis? The tactic of care is based on the duration of the disease - the more pronounced the symptoms, the more stages will include the treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine. Despite frequent difficulties in prescribing medications, many patients wish to perform all treatment procedures at home. The patient does not want to waste the extra time required to go to the hospital or clinic.
In addition, sick leave is rarely granted for this disease, which forces people to quickly abandon the activities they started. Having experienced some improvement, the recent patient returns to his usual activities. But incomplete treatment of breast osteochondrosis leads to a rapid return of previous symptoms. Therefore, very "busy" patients can perform some procedures at home - the main thing is that they do not give up what they started.
You can go without going to the hospital only in the early stages of the disease, when all changes in the spine are reversible. With the help of some measures, it is possible to eliminate muscle spasm, which is the cause of the manifestations:
- It is necessary to change the resting place - the bed, in which the soft tissues of the spine are restored during sleep. For that, it is necessary to make it more rigid, buy an orthopedic mattress to exclude the incorrect positioning of the back.
- For any activity, you need to use a support for your spine - a soft corset that captures your lower back and chest. It should be used regularly for work, taking off only when resting or sleeping.
- Heating ointments are recommended to eliminate symptoms. They are applied between the shoulder blades before the next load to artificially warm up the muscles.
- You need to get into a good habit - exercising at home after waking up. In addition, it is not necessary to do it just in the morning - for any back discomfort, you need to take a few minutes to warm up.
- You need to change your diet, increase the amount of vegetables and fruits in your diet - the vitamins they contain slow down the destruction of connective tissue.
Patients with sufficient free time are advised to engage in physical activities - walking or swimming.
With the development of pronounced signs, the treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine begins with the aid of medications. They allow you to eliminate pain and other manifestations that interfere with normal activity:
- First, anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed, which have an analgesic effect. They inhibit the soft tissue destruction processes, which inevitably leads to the formation of bony protuberances.
- Muscle relaxants are also used - drugs that eliminate painful muscle contractions. Its use allows the chest to return to its former flexibility and mobility.
- In addition, vitamin complexes are prescribed to protect nerve tissue. They allow you to quickly restore the spinal cord roots, which have been subjected to pressure.
- Painkillers and anti-inflammatories can also be used in the form of creams applied between the shoulder blades. But they are usually combined with medications only to ensure synergy.
The course of medication usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks, after which the patient is transferred to home treatment.
The operative method of treatment is generally used when the medication is ineffective. Furthermore, the intervention is not always radical in nature:
- The most commonly used block is the introduction of drugs directly into the lesion with a needle. A local anesthetic is usually used to relieve symptoms. After the procedure, its effect lasts for several days.
- Blockages performed with the help of glucocorticosteroids are more effective - they provide a therapeutic effect that lasts for several weeks. The composition contains hormones that suppress the inflammatory process in the administration area.
- In the most severe cases, an operation is performed - removal of the deformed areas of the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae. In this way, it is possible to eliminate pressure on nerve roots and blood vessels, which leads to the elimination of most manifestations.
Surgical correction does not lead to a complete cure of the disease, it only facilitates the patient's condition. Therefore, after any manipulation, it is necessary to continue conservative therapy, in order to slow the progression of the disease.
The elimination of the main signs of osteochondrosis does not imply the end of treatment. In the period following treatment, the patient is subjected to restorative measures:
- In the initial period, procedures that have a reflex effect are prescribed. Electrophoresis and phonophoresis, UHF and laser can eliminate reflex muscle contraction in the thoracic spine.
- Then, more active procedures begin - massage, therapeutic exercises. They help to strengthen the muscle structure of the chest.
- Recovery ends with independent training, which must continue on an ongoing basis. They allow you to slow the progression of osteochondrosis.
These patients are advised to choose sports that allow them to develop endurance and muscle strength at the same time. Therefore, patients are advised to practice swimming and athletic walking, which allows them to create a uniform load on all muscles. Daily workouts are optional - three sessions per week are sufficient.