Thoracic Spine

Thoracic spine disease encompasses a variety of medical conditions that affect the thoracic spine, the middle part of the spine located in the upper and mid-back region.

The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12) and plays a crucial role in supporting the upper body and protecting vital organs within the chest. These conditions can be caused by factors such as trauma, degeneration, inflammation, or congenital issues.

Overview of common cervical spine conditions, along with their causes, symptoms, and treatment options:

Overview of common sport injuries, along with their causes and symptoms:

  • Causes: Age-related wear and tear leading to disc dehydration and loss of disc height.
  • Symptoms: Mid-back pain, stiffness, limited mobility.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, pain relievers, NSAIDs, and in more severe cases, surgery.
  • Cause: A herniated or bulging disc in the thoracic spine, often due to injury, degeneration, or excessive strain.
  • Symptoms: Localized back pain, radicular pain (pain radiating along the nerves), muscle weakness, and sensory changes.
  • Treatment: Conservative measures like rest, physical therapy, pain medications, and epidural steroid injections. Surgery is rarely necessary but may be considered for severe cases.
  • Cause: Narrowing of the spinal canal in the thoracic region, typically due to degenerative changes, herniated discs, or congenital factors.
  • Symptoms: Back pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the legs. Severe stenosis can lead to difficulty walking.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, pain management, and lifestyle modifications. Surgical intervention may be required for advanced cases to decompress the spinal cord.
  • Cause: Often caused by osteoporosis, trauma (such as a fall), or tumours in the spine.
  • Symptoms: Severe back pain, loss of height, and potential deformity of the spine.
  • Treatment: Conservative management may include pain medications, bracing, and physical therapy. For severe fractures, surgical procedures like kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty may be considered.
  • Cause: Abnormal lateral curvature of the thoracic spine, which can be congenital, idiopathic (developing during adolescence), or degenerative (developing in adulthood).
  • Symptoms: Uneven shoulders or hips, back pain, and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties or organ compression.
  • Treatment: Treatment depends on the degree of curvature and its impact on the patient. Options include physical therapy, bracing (for adolescents), and surgery in severe cases.
  • Causes: Congenital defects, poor posture, Scheuermann’s disease, osteoporosis, or spinal trauma.
  • Symptoms: Rounded upper back, back pain, stiffness, fatigue.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, back braces for young patients, pain medications, and potentially corrective surgery.
  • Cause: A chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the spine, leading to fusion of the vertebrae.
  • Symptoms: Stiffness and pain in the lower back, which can extend to the thoracic spine. Reduced flexibility and posture changes may occur.
  • Treatment: Medications to manage inflammation and symptoms, physical therapy, and exercise. In severe cases, surgery may be considered to correct deformities.
  • Cause: A genetic condition leading to abnormal spinal growth during adolescence, resulting in wedge-shaped vertebrae.
  • Symptoms: Back pain, poor posture, and a visible curvature of the upper back (kyphosis).
  • Treatment: Conservative treatment with physical therapy and bracing may help correct posture and manage pain. Surgery is rarely needed for Scheuermann’s disease.
  • Causes: Primary tumours originating in the spine or metastatic tumours spreading from other areas.
  • Symptoms: Back pain, neurological symptoms if the spinal cord or nerves are compressed, unexplained weight loss, or systemic symptoms.
  • Treatment: Radiation, chemotherapy, surgical resection, or a combination of these depending on the tumour type and location.

If you have a thoracic spine disease that is causing damage to your nerves or spinal cord and surgery is recommended, it is likely you will end up having at least one of the following procedures:

  • Percutaneous Endoscopic Thoracic Surgery (Ultra-Minimally-Invasive)
  • Thoracic Spine Decompression (Anterior or Posterior)
  • Thoracic Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression)
  • Thoracic Spinal Deformity Correction Surgery (Scoliosis or Kyphosis)
  • Thoracic Fusion (Anterior or Posterior)
  • Thoracic Laminectomy / Laminotomy
  • Thoracic Laminoplasty
  • Thoracic Foraminotomy
  • Thoracic Corpectomy
  • Anterior Thoracic Discectomy and Fusion (ATDF)
  • Thoracic Artificial Disc Arthroplasty (Replacement)
  • Thoracic Nerve Root Decompression
  • Thoracic Compression Fractures (Kyphoplasty or Vertebroplasty Surgery)
  • Thoracic Spine Fracture Fixation
  • Tumour Resection
  • Revision Surgery

A/Prof Richard Parkinson


Neurosurgeon & Spine Surgeon with 25+ Years Experience

A/Prof Richard Parkinson performs surgery at Sydney’s leading private hospitals.

He consults and operates from Sydney’s most advanced neurosurgical and spinal surgery hospitals, including St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Prince of Wales Private Hospital and The Mater Hospital.

These hospitals offer the latest neurosurgical facilities, including cutting-edge imaging equipment and surgical navigation systems, dedicated and well-trained theatre clinical staff, as well as post-surgical rehabilitation specialists.

A/Prof Parkinson’s areas of expertise include surgery of the entire spinal column, scoliosis surgery, peripheral nerve surgery, as well as physical rehabilitation of athletes that have suffered a brain or spine injury.

Have a question about your condition or wish to book an appointment?

Please get in touch with our reception team if you have a general enquiry for A/Prof Parkinson, or your would like to book an appointment.