Saturday, September 18, 2010

Causes of Thoracic Herniated Discs – MN Workers’ Comp.

Back injuries are the most common work-related injuries we see in our Minnesota Workers' Compensation practice.

Your upper and middle spine is known as the thoracic spine. When the inner core of a disc extrudes and irritates a nearby spinal nerve root, it causes a herniated disc. A thoracic herniated disc can cause upper back pain and other symptoms, including radiating pain and numbness.

The most common location for thoracic disc disorders is at the thoracolumbar junction (T8-T12), which is the area between the thoracic and lumbar areas of the back.

Interestingly, many people without back pain symptoms have disc abnormalities in the thoracic spine. In one study, 90 asymptomatic people were evaluated with thoracic MRI scans. 73% of patients were found to have disc abnormalities in the upper back, such as a thoracic herniated disc or thoracic degenerative disc disease. 37% specifically had a thoracic herniated disc, and 26% had evidence of spinal cord impingement.

If a thoracic herniated disc is causing your upper back pain, it can typically be classified as caused by either 1) degenerative disc disease, or 2) trauma to the upper back.

Degenerative disc disease. Many thoracic herniated discs occur from gradual wear and tear on the disc, which leads to settling of the vertebral bodies and calcification of the disc space. Most commonly, the symptoms of thoracic herniated discs due to degenerative disc disease manifest between ages 30 and 50, and develop gradually. Often, by the time a patient presents to a doctor for thoracic pain, the symptoms had been present for quite some time beforehand.

Trauma to the Upper Back. Traumatic herniated discs are associated with a single traumatic event that caused the abrupt onset of symptoms. Any injury that causes a high degree of sudden force on the discs in the upper spine could lead to a thoracic herniated discs, such as a fall or a sports injury. Thoracic herniated discs caused by trauma are most often seen in younger patients. Often, however, less severe trauma to the thoracic spine can cause an aggravation or a worsening to pre-existing degenerative disc disease of the thoracic spine.

Unfortunately, thoracic spine injuries can be somewhat contentious in Minnesota workers' compensation, because they can be difficult to diagnose, and the injured worker often has underlying degenerative disc disease. If you need assistance with your Minnesota workers' compensation claim, contact a workers' compensation attorney for a free case consultation.

If you have back pain that was caused by your work in Minnesota, you may be eligible for work comp. benefits. For a free, no-obligation case evaluation, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email for a free consultation with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.

Visit us at to learn more about Minnesota workers' compensation.
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