There are 12 thoracic vertebrae, each with a pair of nerves traveling from them to parts of the body. The location of the thoracic vertebrae is just below the shoulder and above the hip areas. The nerves exiting the top two thoracic vertebrae (T1 and T2) control signals to the inside of the arm. The remaining thoracic nerves (T3 to T12) control nerve signals to the rest of the body. Bodily injuries to the thoracic spine are most common in car and other motor vehicle accidents, as well as sports injuries. Rarely, a whiplash type case with brachial plexus injuries can involve the thoracic nerve, resulting in paralysis. Usually the rib cage helps to protect the Thoracic spine but Thoracic spine injuries can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia, depending upon the level of the injury.
How do Medical Doctors and Chiropractors Diagnose a Thoracic Spine Injury?
The spinal cord can be compressed or severed at the point of a spinal fracture (point of trauma). The first test a doctor will order is usually an X-ray, followed by a CT scan or an MRI, or both. (CT scans generally show bones better, while MRIs show soft tissue injuries better.). Of course, variances occur depending on the type of magnet used. An initial diagnosis is made when the patient is first admitted to the hospital, depending on the severity of the accident, but the final level of functioning that a person achieves will not be known until swelling of the spinal cord has gone down and he or she has undergone rehabilitation. Also, with time, the muscle spasms will decrease that will help show the Thoracic injury. Steroids are used to reduce swelling, and the injured person will be immobilized for a period of time. If a bone fracture or fragment is pressing on the nerve, the patient will also undergo surgery.