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Spinal Anatomy: What Can Go Wrong?

Education is key where it comes to back, neck, and spinal conditions. The spinal specialists at 360 Back and Spine Center are dedicated to a comprehensive treatment of decompression, scoliosis, and several other conditions with the full partnership of our patients.

Sometimes, spinal conditions arise because of problems with spinal anatomy. A specialist who understands spinal anatomy can recommend suggestions for preventing injury, as well as suggest treatment for these issues.

Who Is Vulnerable to Spinal Problems?

Spinal issues can affect a person at any age. This is due to the many risk factors. For example, genetics can be enough to cause spinal problems, as can aging. Another risk factor is pregnancy, and yet another is occupational hazards.

Doctors checking Spinal Bone

Certain kinds of spinal problems have been evidenced to have a genetic link. Degenerative disc disease is just one of them. Of course, as time passes and we age, our spine will undergo much wear and tear that can produce pain in the back and neck. Aging can also cause conditions like osteoarthritis to develop, which affects those between the ages of 30 and 60.

Occupational hazards include any activity on the job that involves bending or lifting and that greatly increases the risk of injury to the back, neck, or spine. Lifestyle factors like being sedentary with long periods of sitting can also injure the back and spine. Sitting for long periods places pressure on the spine, causing common spinal diseases and discomfort. Sitting also doesn’t allow the spine to move, which is needed in order for it to maintain its flexibility.

Weight gain of all kinds, including pregnancy, also places pressure on the spine for a long period of time. This increased stress also affects the lower back and also the knees, which must carry the weight. Of course, the longer the back and knees must carry additional weight, the more severely they may be affected.

Spinal Anatomy and Back Problems

The spinal cord is protected by a series of vertebrae—7 in the neck, 12 in the upper back, and 5 in the lower back. Although many think that the spinal cord is the cause of back problems, this is not usually the case.

The spinal cord can become damaged due to trauma, however. When spinal cord damage occurs, it can cause paralysis. Paralysis can also occur in the womb due to developmental inconsistencies or congenital disease, which causes some to be born with it.

The spine itself can experience stress when issues in the cervical spine, such as stenosis, occur. When patients experience back pain, it’s usually caused by the nerve roots which exit through the spinal bones.

How Spinal Conditions Are Diagnosed

Apart from providing a doctor with your complete medical history and undergoing a physical examination, you may need to undergo diagnostic tests in order to determine your condition. A doctor bases their choice of diagnostic test on what they suspect to be the cause of your spine problems and recommends solutions for correcting them.

Some of the more common diagnostic tests for neck, back, and spinal problems include MRIs, bone scans, x-rays, discograms, CT scans, and spinal taps.

Common Spinal Conditions and Their Treatment

Medical treatment for back and spinal conditions can range from physical therapy to surgery.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is the sideways curvature of the spine. Commonly, this condition manifests as the result of growth spurts occurring prior to puberty. It can also be caused by other spinal disorders, some kind of injury to the spine, and arthritis.

Curvature of the Spine

The majority of scoliosis cases are mild and may require only physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles and slow the progression of curvature and the accompanying pain. More severe cases will require medical intervention.

A common means of treating scoliosis medically is bracing, which sees the patient wearing a brace that supports the neck and spine while encouraging proper spinal curvature. Cases requiring surgery may involve the insertion of hooks, wires, screws, or rods for the purpose of correcting spinal curvature.

Cervical and Lumbar Disc Compression

Cervical disc compression occurs when pressure is placed near the top of the spinal cord. Most patients experiencing compression will complain of difficulty when grasping objects, twitching and weakness in the arms and hands, and neck pain.

Lumbar disc compression, where pressure is placed on the lower spinal cord, is usually accompanied by weakness in the lower extremities and numbness and tingling in the feet. This condition can also require the intervention of a Texas spine institute where pain in the legs and buttocks and pain in the center of the back is occurring.

The surgical treatment for cervical disc compression is called cervical discectomy, which sees the herniated disc being removed and the spinal cord being decompressed. Then an artificial disc device is inserted. These devices not only work to slow the progression of degenerative disc disease in other vertebrae but also improve function, preserve motion, and reduce pain.

Surgery for lumbar disc compression sees the damaged disc being removed and replaced with a different implant than what is used for cervical compression—one which allows for natural movement, allowing the patient to achieve a range of motion that’s nearly normal.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease occurs when vertebrae in the neck or pelvis degenerate to the point that the space between discs is greatly lessened. This can cause the nerves to compress, as well as cause general instability.

Spinal fusion surgery is an option for those experiencing the pain of this condition. However, this surgery can be extensive. Spinal fusion can be ideal for patients who are experiencing severe pain that may or may not be accompanied by weakness, numbness, and tingling in the extremities. However, this surgery is not guaranteed to relieve pain, nor is it recommended for patients in which more than one disc has degenerated.

For most patients with degenerative disc disease, it is recommended that the patient seek out non-surgical options for pain management in conjunction with obtaining conservative rehabilitation and help from a Texas back institute in Plano.

Kyphosis

Kyphosis is the forward rounding of the spine. This condition, although it typically affects older female patients, can affect anyone at any age. When kyphosis is seen in older patients, the cause is usually attributed to osteoporosis or simply the degenerative changes that occur with time.

Younger kyphosis patients with developmental issues are often diagnosed with Scheuermann’s Kyphosis or Scheuermann’s disease. Unhealthy posture can also cause kyphosis in younger patients.

Bracing is a common solution to kyphosis, as the brace supports healthy posture and spinal position. Physical therapy is also recommended for milder cases. Where kyphosis is severe, surgery is an option to decrease the degree of spinal curvature. Surgery includes spinal fusion, which includes pieces of bone being inserted between the vertebrae and then fastening vertebrae together using screws and metal rods. This allows the spine to heal in a healthy position.

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

Both spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis affect the vertebra in the lowest lumbar, where a bony ring surrounds the spine and nerves. These conditions occur as the result of what is believed to be a stress fracture in the pars interarticularis, which is between the pedicle and lamina bones which form the ring.

Stress fractures occur when a bone is placed under repeated strain. Although bones can heal from this kind of stress, when the stress being placed on the bone occurs faster than the body is able to heal it the result is a stress fracture.

Conservative treatment with Frisco spinal rehab may be all that’s needed to reduce the back pain and improve the other symptoms of these conditions. Those with persistent back pain, or where a vertebra has slipped due to the instability of the pars interarticularis, may benefit from surgery.

Doctor Pointing at Spine to Patient

Spinal fusion is the common surgery for spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis. The surgery focuses on the area between the fifth lumbar vertebra and the sacrum to prevent further slipping, stabilize the spine, and alleviate back pain. Following fusion, the bones will grow together and heal as a single bone.

Finding a Spinal Specialist

Locating the right spinal specialist for you can be as easy as meeting at a consultation. They should be able to provide you with information about your condition, as well as speak with you about their successful surgeries with other patients. 360 Back and Spine Center ensures that all our patients make informed decisions about their back, neck, and spinal treatment options. Call

(682) 808-4389 to learn more.