Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is much less common in comparison with a similar pathology affecting adjacent segments. This is due to the strengthening effect of the chest - a strong and flexible frame made of ribs well supports the intervertebral joints. Even if osteochondrosis develops in this segment, it rarely reaches the late stages. The ribs partially relieve the load from 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, then her risk of osteochondrosis increases dramatically. Women's ligaments and muscles are naturally more flexible and extensible, which protects the weaker sex from degenerative damage to the chest.
In men, on the contrary, already in adulthood, there is a "ossification" of all movable joints - first of all, such changes are observed in the intercostal joints. Therefore, the clinical picture develops gradually, as it is associated with slow damage to the joints between the ribs and vertebrae. The sooner a person determines the first symptoms of chest osteochondrosis, the more effective and shorter the subsequent treatment will be.
Thoracic osteochondrosis rarely occurs even without small manifestations, but in the early stages, patients usually simply do not notice the signs of the disease. Any discomfort is attributed to banal fatigue, 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 - to develop in leaps and bounds.
That is, the progression of manifestations does not occur gradually, but suddenly - under the influence of any external factors. Their development is subject to a certain mechanism that occurs in the joints between the vertebrae and ribs:
- Over the course of a person's life, the mobility of the chest decreases - this is due to the thickening of the connective tissue that connects adjacent bones.
- From a long and heavy load, metabolic products accumulate in it, leading to damage to the "soft" structures - ligaments and cartilage.
- In the intercostal joints, they begin to be replaced by bone tissue, which forms small outgrowths at the site of the defects.
- First, these spines begin to irritate the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal cord in the neighborhood. From the impact on them, a reflex contraction of the surrounding muscles occurs - a spasm.
- It aggravates the impairment of mobility by making the ribcage less flexible and elastic. From these changes, the nutrition of the surrounding tissues changes, as their blood supply deteriorates.
- A vicious circle is gradually formed - impaired blood flow deprives soft tissues of the possibility of rapid recovery. If the load continues to act, then osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine gradually develops.
The rate of progression of the disease depends on the severity of the damaging factors and the capabilities of the body - 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 too nonspecific. Most patients miss the first degree of the disease, going to the doctor only when severe symptoms form. But with a careful attitude to your health, the signs of pathology can be easily identified:
- Since the soft tissues are compacted in the area of the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae, their flexibility and elasticity decreases. Therefore, when stretching or doing exercises, there is pain and crunch 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 is also thickened.
- Together with them, the flexibility of the shoulder girdle is disturbed, which is manifested by difficulty in placing the hands behind the back. It becomes difficult for the patient to perform some movements - to scratch his back, to bring the shoulder blades together.
- There is a feeling of discomfort in any part of the chest, but more often in the interscapular region. It is on it that the bulk of the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal cord in this section are projected.
- Resistance to prolonged physical labor decreases, and the maintenance of posture decreases - a feeling of fatigue in the back quickly arises.
- There is a decrease in the depth of breathing - when you try to take a deep breath, its restriction is observed.
At this stage, the disease can be safely treated at home, since irreversible changes in the soft tissues in the joint area have not yet formed.
While the influence of negative factors persists, the signs of chest 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. Their occurrence is associated with the formation of persistent changes leading to ossification of the costal-vertebral joints:
- Pain, which is the result of pressure on the nerve roots, already comes to the fore among the symptoms. It has some features - a burning or shooting character, a connection with physical activity or a prolonged uncomfortable posture.
- Unpleasant sensations are usually determined between the shoulder blades, from where they spread along the course of 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 a calm breath, there is an increase in pain.
- The disease is distinguished from ordinary intercostal neuralgia by the persistence of symptoms - in the first case, the pain syndrome passes on its own and quickly (within a few minutes). Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is distinguished by the duration of pain - they are continuous, decreasing only at rest.
- The 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 - for treatment, they try to use a long course of drugs, combined with physiotherapy procedures.
At the final stage of the disease, there is a strong deformation of the joints between the ribs and vertebrae. This puts pressure on the surrounding vessels and nerves, which are directed to the internal organs. Therefore, the symptoms of the disease acquire unusual features characteristic of another pathology:
- The pain syndrome persists, acquiring an intense and continuous character. Lumbago between the shoulder blades and along the ribs bother 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 sensations, or "creeping".
- There are periodic reflex cramps of the abdominal muscles, accompanied by unpleasant sensations.
- Since the nerves of the internal organs are involved in the process, symptoms of their 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 examination.
Even long-term treatment will not allow you to permanently get rid of the symptoms if the patient has held on to the disease to this degree. Supportive therapy will only reduce the signs of the disease, which is firmly entrenched in the thoracic spine.
How to treat thoracic osteochondrosis? The tactic of assistance 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 the frequent difficulties in prescribing medications, many patients want to undergo all treatment procedures at home. The patient does not want to waste the extra time that is required from him to visit the hospital or clinic.
In addition, sick leave is rarely issued for this disease, which forces people to quickly quit the activities they have begun. Having felt some improvement, the recent patient returns to his usual activities. But incomplete treatment of breast osteochondrosis leads to a rapid return of the previous symptoms. Therefore, too "busy" patients can carry out some procedures at home - the main thing is that they do not give up what they have started.
You can do 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 on which the soft tissues of the spine are restored during sleep. To do this, you need to make it more rigid, buy an orthopedic mattress to exclude the wrong position of the back.
- For any activity, you need to use support for the spine - a soft corset that captures the lumbar and thoracic regions. It should be regularly worn to work, taking off only when resting or sleeping.
- It is recommended to use warming ointments to eliminate symptoms. They are applied between the shoulder blades before the upcoming load in order to artificially warm up the muscles.
- You need to get into a good habit - doing exercises at home after waking up. Moreover, it is not necessary to perform it only in the morning - for any discomfort in the back, you need to find 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 who have enough free time are advised to engage in physical activity - walking or swimming.
With the development of pronounced signs, the treatment of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine begins with the help of medications. They allow you to eliminate pain and other manifestations that interfere with normal activity:
- First of all, anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed, which have an analgesic effect. They inhibit the processes of destruction of soft tissues, which inevitably lead to the formation of bone outgrowths.
- Also used are muscle relaxants - drugs that eliminate painful muscle contractions. Their use allows the chest to return to its previous flexibility and mobility.
- Further, complexes of vitamins are prescribed, which are aimed at protecting the nervous tissue. They allow you to quickly restore the roots of the spinal cord, which have been subjected to pressure.
- Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories can also be used in the form of creams that are applied between the shoulder blades. But they are usually only combined with medication to ensure synergy.
The course of medication usually lasts from 2 to 3 weeks, after which the patient is transferred to home treatment.
The operative method of treatment is usually resorted to when medication is ineffective. Moreover, the intervention is not always radical:
- The most commonly used blockade is the introduction of medications 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.
- Blockades carried out with 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 area of administration.
- In the most severe cases, an operation is performed - removal of deformed areas of the joints between the ribs and vertebrae. In this way, it is possible to eliminate the pressure on the nerve roots and blood vessels, which leads to the elimination of most of the manifestations.
Surgical correction does not lead to a complete cure of the disease, but only facilitates the patient's condition. Therefore, after any manipulation, continuation of conservative therapy is required, aimed at slowing the progression of the disease.
Elimination of the main signs of osteochondrosis does not imply the end of treatment. In the period following the treatment, the patient undergoes restorative measures:
- In the initial period, procedures are prescribed that have a reflex effect. Electrophoresis and phonophoresis, UHF and laser can eliminate reflex muscle contraction in the thoracic spine.
- Then more active procedures begin - massage, medical gymnastics. They help to strengthen the muscular frame of the chest.
- The recovery ends with independent training, which should go on in a continuous mode. They allow you to slow down the progression of osteochondrosis.
Such patients are advised to choose sports disciplines that allow them to develop muscular endurance and strength at the same time. Therefore, patients are advised to engage in swimming and race walking, which allow you to create an even load on all muscles. Daily workouts are optional - three sessions per week are enough.