Do you enjoy standing or sitting or playing your favourite sport? Then you should thank your spine; it is a wonderful structure with a pile of little bones known as vertebrae. It is located at the centre of your back, originating from your hip to the neck. The vertebrae are surrounded by cushioning cartilage, ligaments that are flexible, large muscles and strong bones.
Your spine supports the head, shoulders, and upper body, allowing you to perform certain actions like standing, walking, bending, twisting from side to side etc. Your spine has another important role; a set of nerves(responsible for communication) that connects your brain to other body parts travelling through your spinal cord tunnel.
Though your spine is strong, it is vulnerable to certain conditions or diseases. However, most of them are successfully treated by spine specialists.
Here are some of the most common spinal conditions:
Your spine provides some space within your spinal cord for the nerves to travel from the brain to various body parts. By any means, if the space becomes narrow, the bones press against them and damage the nerves. It commonly occurs in your lower back and neck. Sometimes, you don’t even know that you have this condition until you experience symptoms like pain, tingling or numb sensation and muscle weakness etc.
Between each of your vertebrae, there is a soft cushion called a disc, which prevents friction against each other. However, either due to injury or weakness(as you age), the soft inner portion of the disc protrudes out, breaking the tough outer ring. Actually, though this name is popular it is a misnomer. This is a herniated or prolapsed disc. This spinal condition is commonly observed in the lumbar and cervical segments.
Cervical spondylosis is a common condition that occurs due to age-related wear and tear effects of the spinal disks in your neck. Over time, the disks dehydrate and shrink, causing osteoarthritis, disc herniation or bone spurs. According to trusted sources, 90% of people with this condition are 60 years and older. Most of these are normal ageing changes. Only in a very few unfortunate cases, these can become symptomatic.
The sciatic nerve is one of the longest nerves in your body that originates in the lower back and ends in your lower leg. Sciatica pain occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated due to herniated disk, bone spur, or any other spine condition that damages the nerve. It is a sharp pain that radiates deep into the buttock from the lower back to your lower leg. Usually, Sciatica pain affects one side of the body.
This is a spinal condition that occurs when one of the vertebral bones in your spine slips out of place and rests onto the vertebrae just below it. Spondylolisthesis is one of the main reasons for lower back pain in many people because it commonly happens in the lower back. The risk of Spondylolisthesis is more in old age people, but it also affects younger people who are involved in sporting activities like football, gymnastics, and weightlifting. Some experts say that genetics might also increase the risk of this condition in some people.
Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs)
VCFs occur when a vertebral bone in your spine collapses. A compression fracture typically occurs due to the loss of bone mass as a result of osteoporosis or metabolic diseases. It is commonly seen in old age people.
Spine cancer is defined as an abnormal growth of cells in the spinal canal or on the vertebral bone of your spine and forms like tumours. Often they are termed as spinal cord tumours and vertebral tumours, and they can be either cancerous or non-cancerous, but both of them can cause disability or even death. Cancerous vertebral tumours account for 90% of spine cancers, and they mostly spread to the spine from another body part with cancer such as breast and lung cancers in women and in men from prostate cancer. These are called metastatic cancers.
Scoliosis is a severe spinal condition that can twist your spine sideways. It is also called thoracic scoliosis and lumbar scoliosis based on the location it affects. Mostly it affects children during their growth spurt just before puberty, resulting in sideways curvature of the spine. In addition, children with scoliosis might have uneven shoulders. Cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy conditions might cause scoliosis, but the exact cause is unknown.
Kyphosis, often called “roundback”, referred to an abnormally curved spine. The spine bends outward excessively in this condition, resulting in an abnormal rounding shape of the upper back. If the curve is severe, it is called a “hunchback.” Kyphosis can develop at any age, but older women are more vulnerable to this condition, and it is often observed in children during adolescence.
Myelopathy is defined as spinal cord injury caused due to the compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots as a result of trauma, arthritis, bone spurs and degenerative disc disease or disc herniation. This is divided into Cervical myelopathy, Lumbar myelopathy and Thoracic myelopathy based on the location it affects.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rare type of chronic arthritic condition. It is an inflammatory disease that might fuse some of the small bones in your vertebrae and rib cage. Over time it results in pain and stiffness in your spine, making it less flexible, and eventually, it ends up with a hunched-forward posture. It can also spread to other joints and organs in your body. Young men are more likely to get it than women, and it might also run in families.
The ends of your vertebrae are coated with a slippery tissue called cartilage to prevent friction between them. Degeneration of this cartilage of the discs in the neck and lower back is called spinal osteoarthritis. It results in extreme pain and stiffness. Women are more likely to be affected by osteoarthritis compared to men, and it tends to become worse over time.
It is a rare condition referred to as forming a fluid-filled sac in your spinal cord called a cyst. It occurs when brain tissue pushes down into your spinal cord from the skull or due to an injury or tumour. The condition becomes severe if the cyst keeps growing and requires surgery to treat it.
Whiplash is a cervical spine injury that happens when your head is rapidly thrown back and front all of a sudden. This rapid motion can damage the soft tissues like muscles & ligaments, nerves and bones in your spine. This condition commonly happens in vehicle accidents and when you jump from heights. The severity of this condition depends on the intensity of the impact.
Spinal cord injury (SCI)
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that damages one or more vertebrae, ligaments or discs of the spinal column in your spine. The damage to your spine might result in a loss of functions like mobility and sensory feeling. A traumatic spinal cord injury is caused due to vehicle accidents, a sports mishap, falling, gunshots, knife wounds etc. A nontraumatic spinal cord injury might result from arthritis, tumours, infections or disk herniation of the spine.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome is a very rare condition associated with spinal nerves. A group of nerves called cauda equina comes from your spine to the lower back helps the brain to control the function of the legs and other organs in your pelvis. A herniated disk, fracture, or any other condition that compresses this group of nerves results in this condition. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical treatment to prevent long-lasting effects like paralysis of the legs.
Almost all spinal conditions can be treated. However, if you have any problem associated with the spine, even back pain, consult Dr. Surya Prakash, a renowned spine surgeon in Hyderabad. He has more than two decades of experience in treating various spine disorders.