Due to the limited motion in the thoracic spine caused by the bony barrier of the ribs, thoracic disc herniations are relatively rare. However, when they do occur, they can create much pain and dysfunction.
The surgical access to the thoracic disc is more complicated than other parts of the spine and may involve the removal of a rib to access an injured disc. This is a complicated surgery that can lead to other unintended consequences. Whenever practical and safe, conservative (nonsurgical) care, such as chiropractic, is advisable prior to the use of more invasive procedures, such as spinal injections or surgery.
Chiropractic treatment options
The goals of the chiropractic treatment of a thoracic disc herniation are to reduce pain and dysfunction while the body heals itself.
Since most disc extrusions naturally regress in a few months, chiropractors will attempt to reduce the pain and pressure caused by the disc herniation. Chiropractic treatment of a thoracic disc herniation may include one or a combination of the following:
- Distraction or traction
- Ergonomic training
- Physical modalities (cold laser, heat, ice, electrical stimulation)
- Specific exercises
Some chiropractors will recommend nutritional support, such as proteolytic enzymes, to reduce the pain and swelling associated with a disc herniation.