Typically, this condition develops after years of movement and weight gain add pressure to the discs until a disc in the spine dehydrates, bulges or herniates, which can lead to pain and other symptoms. Because the thoracic spine is attached to the rib cage and doesn’t carry the same weight or movement as the other areas of the spine, developing a degenerative disc disease in this area is much less likely than developing it in the lower back or neck.
Symptoms of a degenerative disc in the thoracic spine are any less painful. When the damaged disc presses against a nearby nerve,the following symptoms can occur:
- Pain upon twisting of the back
- Muscle spasms
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction (If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.)
- Slumped posture
Because these symptoms can travel the length of the nerve pathway, they can reach into the arms or legs as well as stay local in the middle of the back.
Other conditions caused by degenerative disc disease
The development of degenerative disc disease can lead to the development of other spine conditions, such as spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal and can develop when a damaged disc moves into the empty space between the spine and the walls of the spinal canal. This area is a common pathway for nerves to travel to and from the spine, which makes it likely that a disc that bulges into this area of the spine will impact a nerve and cause pain.