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Thoracic spine – upper and mid back and rib cage

The thoracic spine makes up the upper and middle back and consists of twelve vertebrae or bones, which are numbered T1-T12 and has a normal kyphosis or c-shaped curve. The top of the thoracic spine attaches to the bottom of the cervical spine (base of the neck) and the bottom of the thoracic spine joins to the lumbar vertebrae, the part of the spine making up the lower back. The intervertebral discs in the thoracic spine are thinner than those in the cervical and lumbar spine, adding to the inflexibility of this portion of the spine.

The thoracic vertebrae are distinguished by the presence of attachment areas on the sides of the bodies for the heads of the ribs. These joints between the vertebrae and the ribs are called the costovertebral joints and the 12 thoracic vertebrae with one rib attached on each side create the thoracic cage or rib cage. The function of the thoracic cage is to protect the internal organs of the chest, especially the heart and lungs.

The thoracic spine is less mobile than the cervical and lumbar spine because of the thoracic cage and the thoracic vertebrae are designed for flexibility, stability and power. In conjunction with the ribs they protect the important organs in the chest and help the body stand upright and although the ribs attached to T11 and T12 don’t attach to the chest wall, they still serve the purpose of protecting the kidneys.

Conditions often associated with the thoracic spine that we treat include:

  • Upper back pain
  • Mid back pain
  • Poor chest expansion on a deep breath
  • Rib pain
  • Rib pain with pain radiating around to the front of ribcage
  • Pulled muscle and muscle tension

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