Chest osteochondrosis: symptoms, treatment, causes, stages

what is chest osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis affecting the thoracic spine is often disguised as a pathology of internal organs. It is manifested by pain in the heart, shortness of breath, a feeling of lack of air when inhaling, and panic attacks. Therefore, the diagnosis of thoracic osteochondrosis is somewhat difficult. After its detection, conservative treatment is carried out using drugs, physiotherapy, exercise therapy. And with severe damage to the chest discs and vertebrae, surgical intervention is required.

Brief description of the disease

Thoracic osteochondrosis is a degenerative-dystrophic disease of the spine. At the initial stage of its development, the intervertebral discs are slowly destroyed. They become thin, brittle, and radial cracks appear on their surface. To stabilize the thoracic segment affected by osteochondrosis, the bone tissue of the vertebrae grows with the formation of acute growths - osteophytes. This becomes the reason for a sharp restriction of mobility, compression of blood vessels and spinal roots.

Pathology degrees

The degree of osteochondrosis is a set of symptoms characteristic of a certain radiographic stage. The more deformed the discs and vertebrae, the more pronounced the clinical manifestations. The severity of the pathology always determines the tactics of treatment, it must be taken into account when choosing drugs and methods of their use.

I degree

X-ray images usually do not show any changes. But the intervertebral disc has already begun to collapse due to the inability to retain the moisture necessary to restore its tissues. Sometimes there is a slight discomfort in the back, which quickly disappears after a short rest. Degree 1 osteochondrosis is usually discovered by chance during the diagnosis of other diseases.

degree of pathology

II degree

The fibrous ring becomes loose, fibrous. One of the cracks on the surface of the disc increases, the nucleus pulposus extends there. On radiographs, a decrease in the distance between adjacent vertebral bodies is noticeable due to a decrease in the height of the disc. As a result of constant compensatory muscle tension, the mobility of the thoracic region is limited, and moderate painful sensations occur.

III degree

The integrity of the annulus fibrosus is violated, so the nucleus pulposus is squeezed out of it. A hernial protrusion is formed - the main cause of severe symptoms and severe complications of chest osteochondrosis. The vertebral bodies are deformed, single osteophytes are formed. Pain in the thoracic region becomes constant, the range of motion in the spine is significantly reduced.

IV degree

X-ray images clearly show the growth of connective tissues, the formation of multiple osteophytes. The adjacent vertebral bodies are blocked, immobilized. Radicular syndrome develops, discogenic myelopathy often occurs - compression of the spinal cord, dangerous for its irreversible consequences. A person hardly serves himself in everyday life, loses the ability to perform professional duties.

Causes of osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine

Thoracic osteochondrosis in people over 40-45 years old develops due to the natural aging of the body: slowing down of recovery reactions, a decrease in collagen production, which causes elasticity, strength of the ligaments. At a younger age, it occurs as a result of increased stress on the spine or against the background of pathologies already present in the body:

  • rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis;
  • endocrine and metabolic diseases, for example, diabetes mellitus, gout, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism;
  • congenital and acquired anomalies, including kyphosis, scoliosis.

Previous spinal injuries, a sedentary lifestyle, and a lack of vitamins and microelements in the body can provoke premature disc destruction.

Characteristic signs and symptoms of the disease

causes of osteochondrosis

Thoracic osteochondrosis develops gradually, at first without showing itself. It is in this course of it that its danger lies. A person takes mild pain and discomfort in the back for banal muscle fatigue after a hard day at work, housework or in the garden and does not seek medical help. Therefore, usually patients are diagnosed with a pathology of 2-3 degrees of severity, which is difficult to treat conservatively.

At the very beginning

During the period of exacerbation, the pathology can manifest itself as pain between the shoulder blades, which occurs when bending, turning the body. The range of motion is reduced, and many specific signs of relapse are present.

Chest pain

With osteochondrosis, chest pains appear first. They are not clearly localized, they can be given to the hands, to the clavicle, ribs. Pain in the heart is strongly or moderately expressed, resembles an attack of angina pectoris, and is not eliminated by taking nitroglycerin. Sometimes they are similar to the sensations that occur during exacerbation of cholecystitis, pancreatitis. But unlike lesions of the pancreas or gallbladder, pain is not accompanied by increased gas formation, heartburn, and bloating.

Constriction in the chest

Pain between the shoulder blades is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of lack of air when inhaling. A person is expectedly frightened, not understanding the reasons for this state. Doctors recommend not to panic, but to sit down and measure the pulse. If the value obtained does not exceed 100 beats per minute, then the likelihood of disruption of the lungs or heart is extremely low.

Other symptoms

Gradually, the symptoms of osteochondrosis are aggravated by sensitivity disorder. There are sensations of numbness, tingling, crawling creeps. From time to time, conditions that resemble panic attacks occur. They are characterized by fear, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, and cold perspiration. If these symptoms are accompanied by chest pain, then it is necessary to take nitroglycerin and call a doctor. A similar set of symptoms may indicate myocardial infarction.

special symptoms of osteochondrosis

The spinal roots, located in the thoracic region, innervate the internal organs. When they are irritated, compressed, the work of the gastrointestinal tract and liver is upset. Peristalsis is disturbed, epigastric pain, heartburn, belching occur.

Signs in the subacute stage

After an exacerbation, the subacute stage of the course of thoracic osteochondrosis begins. Soreness and breathing problems persist, but they are much less intense. A person is no longer looking for a comfortable position of the body for a long time, in which pain is not felt. The duration of the subacute stage is up to two weeks. Subject to all medical recommendations, remission occurs, which is characterized by the absence of pronounced symptoms. Violation of the regimen leads to a new exacerbation of osteochondrosis.


At the stage of remission, mild discomfort may occur when the weather changes or hypothermia. Acute pain appears only with osteochondrosis of 2-4 degrees of severity due to too sharp rotation or tilt of the body. Exacerbations of chronic pathologies, stress, increased physical activity, and prolonged stay in one position of the body can provoke another relapse.

Principles of Disease Diagnostics

diagnostics of osteochondrosis

The neurologist makes a primary diagnosis based on the patient's complaints, anamnesis data. On external examination, he discovers points in the thoracic region, with pressure on which pain occurs. Conducting functional tests allows you to assess the safety of reflexes, to identify sensitivity disorders. Of the instrumental methods, radiography is the most informative. But for a detailed study of the spinal segment, CT, MRI can be performed. To exclude diseases of the cardiovascular system, patients are assigned an ECG.

First aid for exacerbation

Pain during a relapse of thoracic osteochondrosis is acute, penetrating, so a person needs to be given first aid. It should be soothed, laid on a hard surface, covered with a warm blanket. If the relapse is accompanied by increased heart rate, shortness of breath, increased anxiety, then you need to call a doctor. Any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can be taken to relieve pain between the shoulder blades.

How to treat chest osteochondrosis

Only a comprehensive approach to treatment will get rid of all the symptoms of osteochondrosis, slow down or completely stop its spread to healthy discs and vertebrae. With pathology of 1-2 degrees of severity, conservative methods of therapy are used. For osteochondrosis 3-4 degrees, the formation of large hernias is characteristic. Surgical treatment may be required to relieve pressure on blood vessels and spinal roots.


drugs for osteochondrosis

In the treatment of thoracic osteochondrosis drugs of various clinical and pharmacological groups are used. At the initial stage, agents for parenteral administration are usually used, which quickly provide a therapeutic effect. A few days later, injection solutions are replaced with safer tablets, ointments, and plasters.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs have a pronounced analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-edema effect. The intramuscular administration of solutions allows to stop acute pain. To eliminate mild discomfort between the shoulder blades, local application agents are used. And with moderate pain, NSAIDs for oral administration do well.

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are used to relieve muscle spasms in response to severe pain. Most often, the treatment of chest osteochondrosis begins with the intramuscular administration of drugs, which, in addition to the muscle relaxant tolperisone, include an anesthetic.


In case of pathology of the 1st degree of severity, the course intake of chondroprotectors helps to restore damaged discs. In other cases, they are prescribed to improve the metabolism in the affected segment of the spine, to prevent the progression of the disease.

Preparations of B vitamins

Their use helps to increase blood flow, improve the functioning of the peripheral nervous system, restore trophism and innervation. The complex of B vitamins has a beneficial effect on degenerative diseases of the nerves and locomotor system.

Physiotherapy exercises

In case of thoracic osteochondrosis of 1 degree, daily exercise therapy allows you to do without the use of drugs. Recovery occurs by strengthening the muscles, improving the blood supply to tissues with nutrients. In other cases, exercise and regular training help prevent the involvement of healthy spinal segments in the destructive process, and prolong the stage of remission.

Complex from a standing position

In a standing position, the following therapeutic exercises are most therapeutically effective:

  • put your palms on your shoulders, bend forward while lifting your bent legs, as if trying to reach the opposite knee with your elbow;
  • raise your left hand up, lean to the right. Perform the exercise in the opposite direction;
  • Spread your legs shoulder-width apart, raise your arms. Lean forward, touching the opposite foot with your palm.

The number of repetitions is 10-12 times in 2-3 sets.

From a prone position

To complete these exercises, you will need a gym mat or thick, double-folded blanket:

  • lie on your stomach, at the same time raise your arms and legs;
  • lying on your back, raise your upper body, stretch your palms to your feet;
  • lying on your back, bend one leg, wind it behind the other, trying to touch the floor with your knee.

Each exercise should be done 7-10 times.


exercises for osteochondrosis

When performing such exercises, sharp, high-amplitude movements, including twisting, should be avoided:

  • sitting on the floor, stretch forward, trying to touch the opposite foot with your palm;
  • sitting on a chair or stool, stretch your arms forward and slowly turn from side to side;
  • while sitting on the floor, wrap your arms around your knee, pull it as close to your chest as possible.

At the first lessons, the exercises should be repeated 5-7 times, after about a month - 15-20 times.


Magnetic therapy, laser therapy, UHF therapy, sinusoidal currents, shock wave therapy, applications with paraffin and ozokerite are used in the treatment of chest osteochondrosis. In case of exacerbations, electrophoresis, ultraphonophoresis with glucocorticosteroids, anesthetics, B vitamins, chondroprotectors are performed.


A massage performed by a specialist helps to eliminate soreness between the shoulder blades, to relax the spasmodic skeletal muscles.

massage for osteochondrosis

For osteochondrosis, all types of massage are therapeutically effective - classic, vacuum, acupuncture, connective tissue. At home, self-massage is conveniently performed using a wooden or electric long-handled massager.


Acupuncture is a method of treating pathology by installing needles into bioactive points on the human body. They are thin, short, so when piercing the skin, only mild discomfort occurs occasionally. But even this effect is sufficient for the production of substances in the body with analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.


Nutritionists recommend that patients with chest osteochondrosis give up fatty meats, rich soups, smoked meats, homemade and factory marinades. It is necessary to limit the amount of salt in the diet, which provokes the formation of edema. Every day you need to drink about 2. 5 liters of liquid - water, vegetable juices, berry fruit drinks, fruit compotes.

Folk remedies

Decoctions and infusions of medicinal plants, ointments, alcohol and oil rubbing, compresses are allowed by neurologists to be used after the main therapy. Folk remedies are used to eliminate mild pain between the shoulder blades, sometimes arising after physical exertion.

Celery Root

Peel the large celery root, finely chop it, squeeze the juice. Add 100 g of chopped fresh celery. Take 3 tablespoons up to 4 times a day with meals to cleanse the vertebral structures of harmful salt deposits.

Sunflower Root

Pour a teaspoon of dry crushed sunflower roots with a glass of hot water. Bring to a boil, simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, cool under the lid, drain. Drink 3-4 times a day.

Home ointment

homemade ointment for osteochondrosis

In a mortar, grind a tablespoon of gum turpentine and thick honey, add 2 drops each of juniper, rosemary, eucalyptus essential oils. Inject in small portions 100 g of medical petroleum jelly. Stir, transfer to a jar, store in the refrigerator, rub on the back for pain.

During pregnancy

Many systemic analgesics are contraindicated during pregnancy, so neurologists prefer drugs for external use - ointments, gels, patches. If you cannot do without taking pills, then their dosages are significantly reduced. During the period of childbearing, the main methods of therapy for chest osteochondrosis are massage and exercise therapy.

Possible consequences

In the absence of medical intervention, thoracic osteochondrosis can cause pneumosclerosis, arrhythmias, vegetative-vascular dystonia, deterioration of the gastrointestinal tract, impaired sexual and reproductive function in women and men.

Prevention and prognosis

The prognosis is favorable with timely detection of the disease, competent, comprehensive treatment. If complications of thoracic osteochondrosis have developed, then only compliance with all medical recommendations will allow achieving stable remission.

As a prophylaxis of pathology, neurologists recommend excluding factors provoking it from the usual way of life. This is overweight, low physical activity, a deficiency of vitamins and minerals, excessive stress on the spine.