Between each vertebra lies a fibrocartilagenous structure called the intervertebral disc. This disc is present at all levels of the thoracic spine. The disc is comprised of a series of outer fibrous rings (annulus fibrosis) and a soft center (nucleus pulposus). The walls of the disc are thinnest and weakest posterior laterally where the spinal nerves exit the spinal column. The disc serves as a joint between the vertebra, functions as a cushion and allows movement between the vertebra.
Inflammation, damage or degeneration of a disc can cause a range of symptoms that vary, based on the severity of the problem. Disc pathology may produce a loss of back motion, back pain, pain may radiate from the back around the ribs and chest, numbness, tingling, muscle spasm or some combination of several of these. The most common area of thoracic disc problems is between T8-T12. The incidence of thoracic disc problems is far less than in the lumbar and cervical area.
Common conditions of the intervetebral disc include bulging disc, herniated disc, prolapsed disc, degenerative disc disease, anular tear of the disc, ruptured disc and slipped disc.