Spinal problems can encompass many different conditions and injuries, including spinal stenosis, bone spurs, compression fractures, nerve impingement, sciatica, disc disease, facet disease, spondylolisthesis, and more.
Here is some information about the most common neurosurgical spinal problems:
Stenosis occurs when the spinal canal becomes narrowed, resulting in compression of nerves. Lumbar stenosis is most often caused by degenerative arthritis associated with aging, but can also be caused by bone disorders and spinal infections or tumors. Symptoms include lower back pain and pain and weakness in the legs. The symptoms associated with lumbar stenosis often get worse over time. Treatments include physical therapy, medications, and epidural injections. Surgery may be performed to widen the spinal canal.
Cervical stenosis can be congenital, or the result of disc herniation or a bone spur. This type of stenosis only results in symptoms if the nerve roots or spinal canal are compressed. It can cause moderate to severe back pain and weakness or numbness in the arm if a nerve root is compressed. If the stenosis is causing compression of the spinal cord, symptoms include dizziness, nausea, weakness, widespread pain, balance problems, memory trouble, bowel movement issues, and fatigue. Treatments include medication, traction, and immobilization of the neck with a collar. Surgery may be performed to enlarge the spinal canal.
Even minor spinal fractures can be very painful and can result in fragments of bone damaging the nerves and spinal cord. This type of injury can be caused by collisions, falls, accidents, and weakened discs. Patients with osteoporosis are more likely to experience a spinal fracture. If the fracture does not heal on its own over time, it may need to be surgically repaired.
Spinal instability causes severe pain. It is characterized by the spine making consistent rubbing and slipping motions. It is typically the result of vertebrae simply not moving appropriately, but can also be caused by spinal tumors, infections, and trauma, as well as degenerative diseases. Bracing and rest can be used as conservative treatments. Surgery may be necessary to realign the bones in order to prevent spinal cord injury.
Lumbar and Cervical Disc Herniation
A herniated disc occurs when the soft, gel-like substance inside a disc pushes out through a crack in the disc’s exterior. This condition is most common in the lower back (called lumbar disc herniation) because the lower back carries most of the body’s weight. Symptoms include moderate to severe pain that radiates to other parts of the body. A cervical disc herniation, which is located near the neck, results in arm pain and numbness and tingling that travel down to the fingertips. The exact pain that is experienced from a herniated disc depends on the location of the disc that is affected. Treatments include nerve pain medications, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, and surgery to remove the herniated piece of disc.