Skip to Content

Thoracic Disc Herniation

AMBULATORY CARE:

Thoracic disc herniation

occurs when a thoracic disc bulges out from between your vertebrae. Discs are spongy cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. Thoracic discs are located between the base of your neck and your lower back. The herniated disc may press on your nerves or spinal cord.

Common signs and symptoms:

Mild thoracic disc herniation may not cause any signs or symptoms. You may have any of the following if the herniated disc presses against your nerves or spinal cord:

  • Pain in the upper or middle part of your back or your chest
  • Headaches when you sit or lie in certain positions
  • Numbness, tingling, or a burning feeling in your legs
  • Trouble walking or moving your legs
  • Weakness in your arms or legs
  • Trouble urinating or having a bowel movement

Seek care immediately if:

  • You are not able to move one or both of your legs.
  • You have severe headaches when you hold your head in certain positions.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You begin leaking urine or bowel movement, and it is not normal for you.
  • Your pain worsens even after you take medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Muscle relaxers decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • A steroid injection may be given to reduce inflammation. Steroid medicine is injected into the epidural space. The epidural space is between your spinal cord and vertebrae. You may be given pain medicine along with the steroids.
  • Surgery may be needed to fix your herniated disc if other treatments have failed. Surgery may be done to remove your herniated disc and make your spine stronger.

Activity:

Your healthcare provider may have you rest in bed to prevent more injury to your back. Ask how long you should rest and when you can return to your daily activities.

Heat:

Apply heat on your back for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.

Ice:

Apply ice on your back for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. A physical therapist can teach you safe ways to bend, lift, sit, and stand to help relieve back pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Thoracic Disc Herniation (Ambulatory Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes

Hide