Back pain can become debilitating, stopping you from doing your normal daily routine. We tend to not think about the importance of our bones or configuration of our bodies, and all its different functionalities, until becoming a victim of pain.
Your spine and back are a crucial part of supporting the entire body, and if not healthy it can cause a host of unwelcome health issues. The spine is extremely flexible, made up of strong bones, flexible ligaments, tendons, large muscles, highly sensitive nerves, and 26 bone discs called vertebrae. The vertebrae protect your spinal cord and allow you to stand and bend. Several problems can change the structure of the spine or damage the vertebrae and surrounding tissue. The spine is part of the central nervous system, made up of the brain and spinal cord, and relies on the millions of nerves that send messages to the brain that control the body’s functions.
Spine conditions and injuries can make even simple activities like walking or climbing stairs a challenge. Spinal injuries often cause pain when bone changes put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves; they can also limit movement. Treatments differ by disease; sometimes they include back braces and physical therapy, other times surgery may be needed. Here are some of the most common spinal injuries such as:
· Spondylosis: The wear and tear of the spinal discs
· Abnormal Curvature: Your spine’s natural curve helps balance your body, however, if the curves become too pronounced or if your spine develops a twist or an extra curve, it puts extra pressure on the vertebrae and discs.
· Scoliosis: A side-to-side curve in your back
· Kyphosis: Increased curve (“hump”) in your upper back
· Lordosis: Increased curve in your lower back (“swayback”)
· Degenerated Disc: Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is used to describe changes of the spinal discs, most commonly thinning, hardening and drying out. Disc degeneration can result from normal aging or wear-and-tear, but can start or accelerate because of injury, disease or unusual stress.
· Bulging Disc: If the outer wall of a spinal disc weakens, it may push out, or bulge, toward the nerves. This can cause painful nerve irritation.
· Herniated Disc: If the outer wall of a spinal disc tears (ruptures), the soft material inside the disc can squeeze out and press on nearby nerves. This can cause extreme pain, numbness or weakness in your legs or back.
· Fractures: Vertebrae that crack or break can be caused by an injury, repeated stress or a condition like osteoporosis, which can make bones weak and brittle.
· Instability: Spinal instability is when adjoining vertebrae slip back and forth, or have permanently shifted out of position. Instability can be associated with a damaged spinal disc, a bone injury, arthritis in the facet joints, or simply something you were born with.
· Stenosis: Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. Stenosis can press on the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain and other symptoms.
Being told that you have a spinal disorder is often a worrying and stressful experience. To help manage some of these disorders, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. However, one of the best ways to reduce your fears and concerns is to gain a better understanding of your condition, by speaking to an orthopaedic specialist.
To learn more about spine injuries and how to treat them, call the Spine Academy of Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to request an appointment.