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Spondylosis in the Thoracic Spine

Spondylosis refers to the natural wear and tear that can happen in the spine. Also called spinal osteoarthritis, it can affect any region of the spine, including the cervical (neck) or lower back. This page discusses the symptoms, causes and treatment options for thoracic spondylosis, which affects the middle back (the area from below you neck to the top of your abdomen). 

What is spondylosis?

Natural changes in the spine, along with daily wear and tear, can cause spinal discs to lose their shape and size. (Spinal discs are the discs between the vertebrae that act as cushions, allowing your spine to move freely and easily throughout the day.) 

As these discs change, they may become smaller or shorter and reduce the space between the vertebra. This can cause pain, stiffness and inflammation in the back, making it more difficult to enjoy your favorite activities.

Aging is the most common cause of spondylosis. However, a spinal injury or a family history can also increase your risk of developing spondylosis.

What are symptoms of spondylosis?

Symptoms can vary greatly between individuals with spondylosis, and some may not experience any symptoms at all. Common symptoms may include:

How is spondylosis treated?

Most individuals with spondylosis respond well to conservative, non-surgical treatments. Your provider will work closely with you to determine the best approach to relieve your symptoms.

Pain management

The goal of pain management is to help improve symptoms and alleviate your discomfort. Your doctor may also discuss other pain relief options, including prescription medication, cortisone injections or nerve blocks. Closely follow your physician’s instructions and read all medication labels to ensure you are taking medicine safely and effectively.

Physical therapy 

Physical therapy for spondylosis can help strengthen your back and other parts of your body, and help you adapt every day activities to reduce painful symptoms. A therapist will work closely with you to develop exercises to do during therapy sessions and exercises you can do at home. 

Do I need surgery for spondylosis?

Most individuals respond well to non-surgical treatments. However, if your pain continues to interfere with daily activities, your doctor may discuss surgical procedures. There are many options available today, including minimally-invasive procedures, that can help reduce pain and recovery time.

How is spondylosis diagnosed?

Spondylosis is diagnosed with a physical examination by your provider. Your doctor will closely examine your spine and range of motion. You will be asked to move around and bend while your doctor studies the shape and movement of your spine.

Imaging tests, such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan, may also be needed. This allows your doctor to check for other conditions, including herniated discs or bone spurs. Some insurances require other pre-requisites before ordering imaging service. Be sure to discuss these options with your provider.