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 softer 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 vertebrae, functions as a cushion and allows movement between the vertebra.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc disease is a term to describe the progressive, gradual wear and tear of the intervertebral disc. This degeneration affects the outer annulus fibrosis and nucleus pulposus. As the disc wearsthere is loss of disc height and increased likelihood of the development of bulging and herniated discs. Degeneration of the disc is normal with aging but can be accelerated as a result of trauma, repetitive strain or injury as well as musculo-skeletal imbalances like scoliosis. Disc degeneration itself may not be a problem, but the associated conditions that may develop as it progresses can be symptomatic and debilitating. 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 that may radiate from the back around the ribs and chest, numbness, tingling, muscle spasm or some combination of these symptoms. The most common area of thoracic disc problems occurs between T8-T12. Thoracic disc degeneration occurs far less than in the lumbar and cervical areas because the thoracic spine is less mobile than these other areas of the spine. Common conditions of the intervertebral disc include bulging disc, herniated disc, prolapsed disc, degenerative disc disease, anular tear of the disc, ruptured disc and slipped disc.