What is Thoracic Radicular Pain?
Thoracic Radicular Pain which is also known as Thoracic Radiculopathy is a condition usually caused by compression of a nerve root in the thoracic spine. The term radicular signifies that the pain is not localized but travels to other areas of the body and is accompanied by other symptoms like tingling, numbness, and weakness. Thoracic Radicular Pain can travel from the original site of the compressed nerve root to the chest, shoulders, arms, and the hands.
Thoracic Radicular Pain is quite rare and benign but if it is diagnosed and left untreated then it may worsen to such an extent that it may become difficult to do simple activities like sitting or walking due to the pain. If an individual has symptoms suggestive of Thoracic Radicular Pain then it is recommended to consult with a spine physician who can accurately diagnose the condition and formulate a treatment plan for Thoracic Radicular Pain.
What Causes Thoracic Radicular Pain?
Thoracic Radicular Pain as stated is caused by compression of a nerve root, in this case the nerve roots present in the thoracic spine. What causes the nerve root to become compressed is a complex question and has a variety of different reasons but the most common reason is the pressure that is created by movement of the body in the spinal column which results in the spine to wear out and get displaced.
Some amount of degeneration of spine is present in almost everyone but if the degeneration is quite significant that it causes pressure on the nerves or compresses the nerves then it results in Thoracic Radicular Pain. There are a number of spinal conditions which can result in Thoracic Radicular Pain. These conditions are:
What are the Other Symptoms Associated With Thoracic Radicular Pain?
Along with the radiating pain from Thoracic Radiculopathy there will also be symptoms of pain, paresthesias, dysesthesias, and allodynia. Depending on the specific nerve root that is affected there will be loss sensation along that segment of the thorax. There may also be symptoms of pain in the lower extremities, abdominal or chest pains. In some cases of Thoracic Radicular Pain, there will also be abdominal wall bulging which is suggestive of Thoracic Radiculopathy.
How to Diagnose Thoracic Radicular Pain?
Thoracic Radicular Pain is quite rare when compared to lumbar or cervical radicular pain. This is because the lumbar and cervical spine move much more than the thoracic spine and hence the thoracic spine is much less degenerated than the lumbar and cervical spines. This is the reason why there are far fewer injuries to the thoracic spine when compared to the cervical and lumbar spines.
Nevertheless, individuals with neck pain or radiating pains across the chest and axilla should not ignore it and should consider the possibility of Thoracic Radicular Pain and get tested for that. To diagnose Thoracic Radicular Pain, radiologic studies in the form of CT or MRI scan of the thoracic spine will be done to pinpoint the exact location of the compressed nerve root. Certain conditions that may cause nerve root compression causing Thoracic Radicular Pain are:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Bulging disc
- Herniated disc
- Bone spurs
- Spinal stenosis.
How to Treat Thoracic Radicular Pain?
Thoracic Radicular Pain is mainly treated conservatively through a well formulated exercise regimen through a skilled physical therapist along with regular intake of pain medications to alleviate the pain, avoiding activities that may aggravate the condition for a few days and also therapeutic massage which has also shown great efficacy in treating Thoracic Radicular Pain.
While these treatments are being carried out any change in the character or level of pain needs to be reported for best form of treatments to be utilized. In some cases, the symptoms do not resolve even after all forms of conservative treatments. In such cases, surgery may be recommended to free the compressed nerve and allow the patient to get pain relief from Thoracic Radicular Pain.