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Spine Conditions: Descriptions, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment

Videos to inform the patient on spinal conditions.

Cervical Disc Disease

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

By age 40, about 60% of us have already developed some form of degenerative disc disease (DDD). Our spines, after enduring several decades of twisting, turning, and the occasional trauma, often reflect this wear and tear by manifesting symptoms that are, quite literally, “a pain in the neck.” The primary reason for this is, as we age, the natural disc “shock absorbers” that separate and cushion the seven bones in our neck, called cervical vertebrae, can become damaged or begin to wear out. This, in turn, can irritate or pinch surrounding spinal column nerve roots—resulting in Cervical Disc Disease

Cervical Disc Disease can initially present itself as something as simple as a neck that’s occasionally stiff or sore. It can then evolve into a radiating pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the shoulders and/or arms that can sometimes even extend to the hands. As the disease progresses, it can result in loss of reflex or motor function.

 

A basic physical or neurological exam and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI and CT scans, are typically used to diagnose Cervical Disc Disease.

Usually, Cervical Disc Disease can be effectively treated with a regimen of regular exercise and over-the-counter medications. In more severe cases, physical therapy and steroid medications are used in combination. Surgery is rarely needed. However, in those instances when it is, there are now a number of effective, minimally invasive procedures worth considering.

Lumbar Disc Disease

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

Everyone is familiar with the phrase, “Oh, my aching back!” And for good reason. By age 40, about 60% of us have already developed some form of degenerative disc disease (DDD). But more specifically, if the pain is chronic and centered in the lower back—below the ribcage—it could be caused by Lumbar Disc Disease. Over time, the gel-like “shock absorber” discs that separate and cushion the five bones in our lower spine, or lumbar vertebrae, can become damaged or begin to wear out. This, in turn, can irritate or pinch surrounding spinal column nerve roots—resulting in Lumbar Disc Disease.

Symptoms can range from stiffness or continuous low-grade pain in the lower back to a deep ache that radiates out to encompass the hips, buttocks, legs (above or below the knee), ankle, and foot. Discomfort often increases when sitting and is exacerbated by bending, twisting or lifting activities.

 

A basic physical or neurological exam and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI and CT scans, are typically used to diagnose Cervical Disc Disease.

Usually, Lumbar Disc Disease can be effectively treated with a regimen of regular exercise and over-the-counter medications. In more severe cases, physical therapy and steroid medications are used in combination. Surgery is rarely needed. However, in those instances when it is, there are now a number of effective, minimally invasive procedures worth considering.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

Your spine provides a protective “tunnel” for the spinal cord. Sometimes, because of aging, illness, or an accident, a section of this “tunnel,” the spinal canal, can become narrow. When this narrowing occurs, it can irritate or “choke” spinal nerve roots, the sciatic nerve, or even the spinal cord itself, resulting in a wide range of symptoms. Stenosis in the neck is called Cervical Spinal Stenosis. In the upper back, it’s called Thoracic Spinal Stenosis. And in the lower back, the most common of all, it’s called Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over time and can encompass weakness, numbness, and tingling and/or pain in the buttocks, legs, or even the feet—especially when walking. Typically, with Spinal Stenosis, the pain can be alleviated somewhat by resting or maintaining a flexed position. Symptoms can also fluctuate and may include bowel and bladder issues.

Because many of its symptoms resemble those of other age-related conditions, Spinal Stenosis can be difficult to diagnose. In addition to a basic physical or neurological exam, a battery of imaging tests—including X-rays or MRI and CT myelogram scans—are typically used to diagnose Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

Treatment can range from pain relief medicine and exercise to physical therapy and/or corticosteroid injections. However, if symptoms become severe—or chronically restrict normal daily life—several effective, minimally invasive surgical procedures are now available.

Herniated Disc

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

As we get older, a lot of changes can occur to the 23 gel-like “shock absorber” discs that help separate and cushion all bones, or vertebrae, that make up our spines. In fact, nearly everyone has had a family member or a friend complain about a disc that’s “slipped,” “ruptured,” or “bulging.” But medically speaking, these words all describe the same condition: a Herniated Disc. This condition can occur whenever one of our discs becomes damaged, diseased, or begins to wear out. When this happens, it can irritate or pinch surrounding spinal nerve roots and produce a variety of painful symptoms.

Symptoms can include pain, numbness, and/or weakness wherever the affected nerve travels. By age 40, about 60% of us have some form of degenerative disc disease. Often, a Herniated Disc is associated with low back pain or pain that radiates down the leg.

Typically, a basic physical or neurological exam and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI and CT scans, are used to diagnose a Herniated Disc.

Initially, treatment can include rest, heating pads, ice packs, and over-the-counter pain medications. In more advanced cases, physical therapy and corticosteroid medications are used. Usually, over time, a Herniated Disc will heal on its own. In fact, only about 1 in 10 patients end up requiring surgery. For those considering surgery, several minimally invasive surgical procedures are available.

Spondylolisthesis

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

Spondylolisthesis is a Greek term, and it essentially means “slippery vertebra.” While the name is long and foreign, the condition it describes is a relatively common one. Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it. This condition occurs most often in the lower region of the back. It can be caused by many things, which include: a weak, degenerative joint; a stress fracture created by a demanding activity or sport; a fractured vertebra caused by an accident or trauma; a disease such as arthritis; and even congenital birth defects.

The slippage that occurs in Spondylolisthesis can often irritate or pinch surrounding spinal nerve roots and produce symptoms such as tenderness, stiffness, pain, or numbness in the lower back or buttocks and weakness in one or both legs. Frequently, symptoms range from non-existent to mild, with an intermittent shock of shooting pain down the back of the leg.

Typically, a medical exam and X-rays are used to diagnose the condition. In more difficult cases, other imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans may be used to pinpoint the problem area(s) and guide treatment.

Because the scope of both the problem and symptoms can vary so widely, treatment can range from physical therapy and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to a rigid back brace and, occasionally, even surgery. For those considering surgery, several minimally invasive surgical procedures are available—including an advanced lumbar spinal fusion procedure called OLLIF (oblique lateral lumbar interbody fusion) Outpatient Back Surgery.

Scoliosis

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

A healthy spine has a slight “S” curve when viewed from the side and appears straight when viewed from the front or back. People with Scoliosis develop a lateral curvature in their spines when viewed from the front or back. While some causes of Scoliosis are readily identifiable—including congenital, degenerative, and neuromuscular—other causes are not as clearly understood. Scoliosis tends to develop during the growth spurt just prior to puberty and, by age 16, about 3% of all American teenagers have some degree of Scoliosis.This, in turn, can irritate or pinch surrounding spinal column nerve roots.

Symptoms of Scoliosis can include: an uneven waist or shoulders, a prominent shoulder blade, or leaning to one side.

Scoliosis is most often detected by a pediatrician, family doctor, during a school physical, or during a sports program screening exam.

Most cases of Scoliosis are mild. In fact, many cases require no treatment at all. When necessary, treatment options can range from physio- and occupational therapy to braces and even surgery. For those considering surgery, several minimally invasive surgical procedures are available.

Vertebral Compression Fracture (VCF)

Description Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

Vertebral Compression Fracture is medical terminology for a broken back (or broken vertebra). Usually, this condition is caused by a severe trauma—for example, a bad fall, severe sports injury, or car accident. However, bones made more fragile by osteoporosis, infection, or cancer can also contribute to a Vertebral Compression Fracture.

Symptoms of a Vertebral Compression Fracture can include: sudden, severe pain in the neck or in the upper or lower back; loss of height; numbness, tingling, or weakness; pain when walking, bending over, and/or twisting; difficulty with breathing; and bladder and/or bowel control issues.

A medical exam and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI and CT scans, are typically used to diagnose a Vertebral Compression Fracture, pinpoint the damaged area(s), and guide treatment.

Treatment for a Vertebral Compression Fracture can include: bedrest, ice packs, pain management medication, hot compresses after the first week, a back brace, and stretches and strengthening exercises. In severe cases, especially if nerves or multiple vertebrae are involved, back surgery may be necessary. For those considering surgery, several minimally invasive surgical procedures are available