Herniated disc of the thoracic spine - what symptoms does it cause?


A herniated disc can cause different symptoms depending on the location and extent of the nerve damage.
A herniated disc of the thoracic spine (ESPE) occurs relatively rarely, but is usually associated with typical symptoms. Characteristic chest pain and pain radiating from the neck area into the arms can be signs of a herniated disc in the thoracic spine. Sensitivity disorders and motor impairment can also be present.

Symptoms of a herniated disc of the thoracic spine

The symptoms of a herniated disc of the thoracic spine can vary in severity from person to person. It is possible that, although the symptoms are barely perceived, there is a herniated disc.

Typical symptoms of a herniated disc are pain as well as sensory and motor disorders.

The pain is usually localized in the chest along the ribs, neck, arms, or hands. The pain can be triggered in part by certain movements and pressure on the ribs and is often described by those affected as pressing or pulling. It is also typical that the pain gets better when standing and walking, while more painful when sitting and lying down.

Sensitivity disorders arise due to the impairment of the nerves running along the spine. Since the nerves of the thoracic spine supply the upper body as well as the arms and hands, a loss of sensitivity usually occurs in these areas. This is perceived by numbness of the skin or abnormal sensations.
A tingling sensation in particular, which is perceived on the skin as a preliminary stage of numbness, is a typical sensory disorder that can occur as part of a herniated disc.

A motor disorder is often felt in the arms and hands. If there is a herniated disc in the thoracic spine, it is often no longer possible to move certain fingers. If the motor disorder is weak, a loss of strength in the arms and hands is noticeable.

In general, symptoms that occur as a result of a herniated disc in the thoracic spine can occur on both sides or only on one side.

also read: Signs of a herniated disc

How is pain expressed in a herniated disc of the thoracic spine?

The pain after a slipped disc of the thoracic spine can express itself in different ways. For one thing, there is often a dull pain along the affected vertebral body. This shows the local pressure of the torn intervertebral disc and the escaping disc fluid on the spine.

Furthermore, the involvement of the nerves emerging from the vertebral segments can lead to so-called "radicular" symptoms. In addition to tingling, numbness and pain, the irritation of the nerve at its root can even cause paralysis in the entire supply area of ​​this nerve. The pain can be perceived as being carried on, pulling and electrifying.

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A herniated disc is difficult to treat. On the one hand it is exposed to high mechanical loads, on the other hand it has great mobility.

Therefore, treating a herniated disc requires a lot of experience.
The aim of any treatment is treatment without surgery.

Which therapy achieves the best results in the long term can only be determined after looking at all of the information (Examination, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, etc.) be assessed.

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Where does pain come from?

The nerves of the thoracic spine supply various areas of the body in a sensitive and motorized manner. As a result of herniated discs, pain can occur in all of these areas, the cause of which lies in the nerve root.

The segments of the thoracic vertebrae sensitively supply the area of ​​the upper body between the collarbone and the groin. The inner sides of the arms are also sensitively supplied by the uppermost nerves of the thoracic spine.

In addition to superficial pain in these areas of the body, functional limitations of the chest and abdominal organs can arise, which in turn can lead to painful processes. An example of the functional limitations are heart problems in herniated discs at the level of the second thoracic vertebrae.

Pain between the shoulder blades after a herniated disc

A pain between the shoulder blades is very characteristic of diseases of the thoracic spine. The pain is often dull and pressing. In addition to acute herniated discs, vertebral blockages, tension, the thoracic spine syndrome or signs of wear and tear of the vertebrae can also be responsible for the pain between the shoulder blades.

This upper thoracic region is typically affected in people who sit at a desk for a long time in everyday life and who have poor posture. Modern lifestyles often result in a sedentary lifestyle and inclined head posture, which in a large number of cases can lead to disc problems in the lower cervical spine and upper thoracic spine.

Learn more about the topic at: Pain between the shoulder blades

stomach pain

Due to their close proximity, diseases of the thoracic spine can cause pain that resembles stomach ache.
Here, too, there is irritation of the nerves emerging from the spinal cord at the level of the affected vertebral body. In addition to the skin, the nerves also supply sensitive areas of the upper abdomen. The pain is transmitted to these areas by irritation at the nerve root and can sometimes cause severe pain and imitate organ pain, even though its cause lies in the spine.

In addition to herniated discs, vertebral blockages in particular can also be behind the stomach pain.

You can also find out more at: Causes of Stomach Pain

Chest pain

Chest pain can be caused by a number of different conditions. A herniated disc of the thoracic spine can also occur in connection with chest pain. Typical is pain that occurs along the ribs and can also be influenced by pressure on the ribs. Since chest pain can also be a symptom of serious heart disease, extensive diagnostics are necessary.

The cause of the development of chest pain is directly related to what is happening in the spine. The incident on the thoracic spine typically affects the nerves running in the spine. Since these nerves are responsible for both sensitivity and motor functions, impairment typically results in pain and disorders of sensitivity and motor skills. The localization of the symptoms can be traced back to the course of the nerves which are impaired in the spine. Since the ribs are in direct contact with the spine, the pain can often be triggered by pressure on the ribs or deep breaths. However, provocation of the pain should be avoided in order to avoid complications of the disease.

Read more about this at: Chest pain

Difficulty breathing in the herniated disc of the thoracic spine

Difficulty breathing can appear as a symptom of a herniated disc in the thoracic spine. However, if you experience shortness of breath, other causes must first be considered. If life-threatening diseases such as a heart attack or pulmonary embolism could be ruled out, and if imaging diagnostics diagnosed a herniated disc of the thoracic spine, the cause of the shortness of breath is probably the herniated disc.

When the muscles are tensed to inhale, the ribs move with each breath. Since the back of the ribs are in contact with the thoracic spine, this can lead to pain, which in turn causes shortness of breath. A herniated disc in the thoracic spine normally does not completely paralyze breathing. Oxygen can also be administered to aid breathing.

That might be interesting for you too: Difficulty breathing- you should know that!

Cardiac arrhythmias in herniated discs of the thoracic spine

Heart problems such as arrhythmias are rarely associated with diseases of the spine. However, problems with the intervertebral discs can imitate heart problems, cause similar symptoms of heart disease or even trigger actual cardiac arrhythmias through nerve irritation.

An acute herniated disc can press, irritate or even damage nerves near the spinal cord as the jelly-like mass emerges from the disc. Nerves in the area of ​​the second thoracic vertebrae can influence the heart rhythm and blood flow and lead to noticeable additional heartbeats, heart pounding and irregularities in the heartbeat.

Even in patients with chest pain and heart attack-like symptoms, a herniated disc in the thoracic spine is often the cause of the symptoms.

Read also below: Recognize cardiac arrhythmias

Numbness / tingling sensation in the herniated disc of the thoracic spine

An initial tingling sensation indicates a limitation of the sensitive nerves. The tingling sensation may develop into pain or numbness with a furry feeling in the affected area.
In severe cases, complete, irreversible deafness can develop, and motor nerve fibers can also lead to paralysis of the muscles to be supplied. Typically, the tingling initially occurs in areas remote from the trunk and extends to the spine.

In the case of acute numbness or paralysis, an urgent operation to relieve the affected nerves may be necessary in the event of a herniated disc.

Read more on the subject at:

  • Numbness indicating a herniated disc
  • Tingling sensation indicating a herniated disc

Nausea with a slipped disc of the thoracic spine

Nausea is another symptom that can occur with an acute herniated disc of the thoracic spine. The reason for this is usually the acute onset of pain.

Nausea is therefore not necessarily a symptom of a disease of the gastrointestinal tract, but rather the nausea in this case is a symptom triggered by the severe pain. In some cases, nausea occurs separately from pain as part of a herniated disc of the thoracic spine. In this case, the irritation of the nervous system itself may have caused the nausea.


Symptoms that are part of a Herniated disc of the thoracic spine arise are diverse. There can be both pain and disruption of the sensitivity and Motor skills occur. Especially paresthesia and Paralysis certain muscle groups are often found here. Pain is both im Back area as well as on the chest and are usually perceived as very strong.

If you experience typical symptoms of a herniated disc of the thoracic spine, it is advisable to get a doctor to clarify the symptoms as quickly as possible.

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