As our central support structure, the spine goes through everyday stress to make it possible for us to stand upright and move freely. Despite its strength and flexibility, it is not invincible, and over time, it can develop injuries and conditions that compromise its functionality and cause uncomfortable symptoms.
Fortunately, spine surgeons can diagnose, treat, and prevent spine-related conditions and injuries. Your doctor will first exhaust nonsurgical methods like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve your back pain. If conservative treatments fail to address the problem and the pain becomes debilitating, your doctor may recommend surgery. Here are some common issues that orthopedic spine surgeons treat.
The spinal discs are located in between the vertebrae or the bones that make up your spine. A disc is made up of a tough exterior (annulus) that surrounds a soft, jelly-like center (nucleus) and acts as a shock absorber between the vertebrae. As we age, the discs may lose fluid and dry out, becoming less flexible and more prone to a rupture.
In some cases, the annulus tears, and the jelly-like nucleus makes its way out into the spinal canal in a condition known as a herniated disc. This can cause pain, tingling, and numbness, depending on the location of the ruptured disc. If the herniated disc is in your lower back, you may experience pain every time you sit or stand.
Most cases of disc problems like a herniated disc are resolved without surgical intervention. They may only require conservative treatments like pain medications, injections, muscle relaxers, and physical therapy.
However, if you experience persistent pain after six weeks, along with bowel and bladder problems, it might indicate a complication. Cauda equina syndrome is a condition in which the herniated disc presses against a nerve that regulates bladder and bowel functions.
Your orthopedic spine surgeon may also recommend surgery for worsening symptoms despite conservative treatment application. To prevent permanent nerve damage, your surgeon will remove the part of the disc that is causing the problem. Rare cases may require the removal of the entire disc and bone fusion with a graft.
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves sideways. Some people are born with this condition while other cases are due to cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, but the cause of most cases remains unknown.
Scoliosis can get worse, causing the spine to rotate or twist. This pushes the ribs out on one side of the body. When the protruding rib cage presses against the heart and lungs, it can affect how the two critical organs function. It can also significantly change your appearance, as it makes shoulders and hips uneven and shifts your trunk to one side.
Braces and physical therapy are nonsurgical treatment options for this condition. Individuals with scoliosis are also candidates for spinal fusion surgery. In this procedure, your surgeon realigns the vertebra with a bone or a bonelike material to prevent it from moving independently. Then, your doctor attaches artificial components like metal rods, hooks, screws, or wires to keep the spine straight and allow the vertebrae to fuse and heal.
Spinal Cord Injuries
A traumatic blow that damages the vertebrae, ligaments, or discs in the spinal column may result in an injury to the spinal cord that sits within your spine. Since the spinal cord is an important part of your nervous system, an injury may impair certain bodily functions. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in the United States, there are an estimated 12,000 spinal cord injuries every year, with car accidents and sudden falls as the top causes.
Surgery is often necessary to treat a spinal cord injury. Your surgeon will remove bone fragments or foreign objects and add metal components to stabilize the spine. Spinal decompression surgery may also be necessary to alleviate the pressure in the spinal column.
Given the importance of your spinal cord, your spine surgeon may work in close coordination with other specialists like nerve doctors and physical therapists to assist you in the recovery process.
Spine Specialists in Central Maryland
Orthopedic spine surgeons can treat a variety of back conditions with surgical and nonsurgical methods. If you have persistent back pain that’s preventing you from living your best life, it’s best to see a specialist as soon as possible. Visit the experts at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics to get an accurate diagnosis and receive effective and patient-centered treatment.
To schedule an appointment at our Catonsville, Columbia, or Eldersburg offices, call (410) 644-1880 today or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you and helping you get back to the life you enjoy.