Spine disorders are pretty common, and here is a list of some of the most common ones and their treatment options.
Bulging and Herniated Discs
Disc issues are one of the most common spine disorders that people experience. The discs in the spine are made of an outer ring called the annulus, and a soft, gel-like material called the nucleus pulposus. When a bulging disc occurs, it is caused by the soft nucleus protruding into the protective annulus. This then causes the disc to bulge from its normal place between the vertebrae. If the annulus ruptures and the nucleus pulposus extrudes from the disc, this is called a herniated disc. The herniated disc fragments cause compression and inflammation around the nerves leading to pain, numbness, and weakness in the area supplied by the nerve. Generally physical therapy and rehabilitation are the first treatments, but sometimes, surgery is the necessary treatment option.
When the spinal columnis abnormally curved, it is diagnosed as scoliosis. In juvenile or adolescent forms (adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, AIS) the development of scoliosis typically happens during a growth spurt before puberty. In adult forms (such as degenerative scoliosis), it can occur due to arthritis, spinal injury, or other spine disorders. Physical therapy can be used to help correct this issue when it is mild. Severe cases often require the use of bracing or surgery where either the nerves are decompressed in minimally invasive procedures versus surgeries to correct the curve where rods and screws are used to correct the curvature.
Spinal stenosis happens when the spinal canal, or the area through which nerves pass, becomes narrow. This can create compression and dysfunction in the nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs. In severe cases, patients can develop urinary, bowel, or sexual dysfunction. In mild cases, conservative measures are often effective. In severe cases, surgery is sometimes necessary. There are two main types of spinal stenosis. Central canal stenosis is narrowing in the center of the spinal canal where the nerves pass. This can often be treated surgically with removal of compressive bone and ligaments, called laminectomy. If a slippage of the vertebrae is present (spondylolisthesis), fusion is often performed during the decompressive surgery to prevent worsening of the slippage. Stenosis can also occur where the nerves exit the spine. This is called foraminal stenosis. Treatment of foraminal stenosis is sometimes more involved and can sometimes be treated by decompressive surgery alone (foraminotomy) or in more severe cases, insertion of a device in between the vertebrae (interbody fusion) is sometimes necessary to increase the size of the foramen.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is relatively common, and it is known as a normal part of aging. Stressors and minor injuries cause the spinal discs to gradually degenerate over time. This shrinks that space between spinal discs which causes instability and nerve compression. Pain management and conservative rehabilitation are typically successful treatments for this disorder. If pain does not respond to these measure, surgical options are sometimes necessary. More advanced pain management treatments such as spinal cord stimulation may be an option as well.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, roughly 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their life. If you have low back pain, or think may be experiencing any of these spine disorders, it’s important to see a specialist as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can be the difference between pain management and serious surgery.