The spine is the center of the nervous system. Carrying neural messages throughout your body, the spine has a unique importance to overall health. Spinal conditions like ankylosing spondylitis and scoliosis can produce chronic pain and deformity. Spinal diseases like tumors can also be painful and cause consequences for the body as a whole. Finally, injuries and infections can cause serious spinal problems.
While the spine can be compromised in many ways, Alyssa Berryman explores the most common spinal conditions and examines their potential for treatment.
Between the vertebrae, the body has cushions known as disks. These cushions prevent the bones of the spine from rubbing against one another. However, as patients age, these disks begin to break down. Stress on the back may cause disks to break or tear. This may happen without any symptoms, but many people experience arm and leg pain as well as a tingly, numbing sensation. Typically, this condition responds to painkillers and exercise like physical therapy, but if these are not successful, surgery may be required.
The spine has natural channels for the spinal cord and the nerves that extend from it. Spinal stenosis involves the narrowing or shrinkage of the space around the nerves. Bones can press on the nerves, causing muscle weakness, pain, numbness, or tingling. Osteoarthritis is a very common cause of this disorder. If the condition persists, it may require surgery.
Cervical spondylosis is the consequence of the neck’s general degeneration as the patient ages. Slipped disks are possible in the neck. Bone spurs may also grow. The neck may be painful, and the range of motion may be lost. Nerve damage is a common result of cervical spondylosis. It is treated in the same way as a slipped disk, with physical therapy and painkillers.
Scoliosis involves the twisting of the spine. It is often diagnosed in children who have not yet reached puberty. It is treatable using back braces and surgery. If your child has scoliosis, one of their shoulders may be higher than the other, or they may have one shoulder blade that protrudes farther than the other. It is vital for people of all ages to have optimal posture, but it is especially important for people who were diagnosed with scoliosis as children. This can cause a “hunchback” in older adults.
Similar to scoliosis but generally happening in older adults, kyphosis happens when the vertebrae mash down or crack. It produces a significant bend in the spine. Exercise, physical therapy, painkillers, or surgery may be needed to treat this problem.
Osteoarthritis of the back is extremely common, more so in women than in men. As the cartilage in the spine begins to become rough or breaks down, the vertebrae may begin to rub against each other. This is a progressive condition that cannot be reversed. Fortunately, physical therapy, painkillers, and exercise are shown to help to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Sometimes, tumors from breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bone cancer may spread into the spine. This is a serious problem that must be dealt with using chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. When patients have spinal cancer, sometimes they will lose mobility or become paralyzed. This is one of the major reasons that any persistent back pain should be examined by a doctor.
Common in pregnant women, sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is subject to pressure. This can happen due to bone spurs, herniated disks, and other spinal problems. This condition causes pain that begins in the lower back, radiates through the bottom, and extends into the leg. Stretching, warm and cold packs, and painkillers should be able to help, but it is possible that the condition will need surgical relief.
This serious form of arthritis is more common in men than in women. It begins with a feeling of stiffness and pain in the lower back and hips. It gradually spreads up the spine. In severe cases, it may cause your vertebrae and rib cage to fuse together. It is a progressive condition, but medication and exercise may delay its progress.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome happens when the spinal nerves endure pressure from fractures, herniated disks, and other types of injuries. This causes weakness or paralysis in the lower body and loss of control of the bowels and bladder. This syndrome requires immediate surgery.
Spinal Conditions Affect Quality of Life
For patients with spinal disorders, there are often treatments available. Patients should not ignore any long-lasting back pain since it may result from a serious condition. Alyssa Berryman encourages all patients with spinal disorders to learn about their condition.