What is Thoracic Radiculopathy?
Thoracic radiculopathy is a collection of symptoms that occurs when a nerve within the mid-back area is compressed or irritated as it leaves the spinal column. The symptoms are felt as numbness, shooting pain or weakness in the arm, chest and torso area.
When intervertebral discs in the spine are injured – called a disc bulge or prolapse, it places pressure on the nerve, triggering the condition. These discs are the shock absorbers found between the bones in your spine.
While radiculopathy can happen at any level it is most common in the Lumbar and Cervical Spine. It is less common in the Thoracic Spine due to the ribs helping to stabilise the area.
What are the causes?
Under 50 years of age is the most common age to develop a disc bulge or herniation, whereas over 50 years it is more likely degeneration changes. Imaging is not required to diagnose radicular pain as physiotherapists can make a good estimate about the source of the pain.
Thoracic radiculopathy is an uncommon condition that may be misdiagnosed as shingles, heart, abdominal, or gallbladder complications. Due to a range of possible differential diagnoses of other spinal conditions, thoracic radiculopathy may take time to be detected and is often diagnoses after everything else is ruled out.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a radiculopathy vary depending on the cause and the nerve root that is affected.
- Sudden pain – shooting, severe, burning and/or aching
- Pain felt near the chest, ribs and side
- Tingling (similar to pins and needles sensations)
- Numbness (complete or just a decreased sensation)
- Muscle/limb weakness
- Muscle spasm or tightness
- Loss of or reduced reflexes
- Inability to stand up straight or maintain balance
Treatment for Thoracic Radiculopathy
Physiotherapy is an effective way to reduce pain and encourage recovery from a thoracic radiculopathy. Problems with the discs are not necessarily permanent, however it can take weeks to recover. Current guidelines suggest at least 6 weeks of conservative management before seeking other treatment options.
At Vitalis Physiotherapy, treatment is aimed at stabilising the spinal column and using exercise to unload the spine and reduce pressure on the spinal nerve roots. This is done through:
Anti-inflammatory and/or analgesic medication, rest and heat packs may help some of the symptoms.
Recovery typically takes a couple of months, however this depends on the severity of the disc bulge and nerve root compression. It is important that you do not engage in strenuous activity or sport as this may worsen or aggravate the condition. If symptoms persist your physiotherapist may refer you back to your GP for further investigations or a referral to a specialist.
How to book an appointment?
If you think that you may be suffering from radicular pain, our physio’s at Vitalis Physiotherapy can assess and diagnose the condition. They may also refer you to get scans in some severe cases to better understand your needs. They will then tailor your treatment plan to aid in your pain relief and recovery.
All you need to do is just give us a call on 0410 559 856 and request an initial appointment. Please let our friendly reception staff know the background and severity of your condition.
You can visit our FAQs for more information about appointments at Vitalis Physiotherapy.