What are the Symptoms of Back Pain (Spinal Conditions)?
Back Pain (Spinal Conditions) can manifest in a variety of ways, and their symptoms can vary depending on the specific condition and its severity. Here are some common symptoms associated with Back Pain (Spinal Conditions):
Persistent back pain
Numbness and tingling in your arms, legs, hands, or feet
Fatigue and sleep disturbance
Weakness in limbs
Muscle spasms around the spine
Limited range of motion
What are the Common Causes of Back Pain?
Disc Herniations/Slipped Disc
A disc herniation occurs when the soft cushioning material (disc) between two vertebrae bulges or ruptures, often putting pressure on nearby nerves. The symptoms can vary depending on the location and whether any nerves are affected. However, the common signs of this are numbness, tingling, or weakness, along with pain that radiates down the arm or leg.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress the spinal cord or nerves. It often occurs as a result of age-related changes or conditions like arthritis. Symptoms typically include pain or cramping in the legs, especially during activities like walking or standing.
Spinal instability refers to abnormal movement between vertebrae, often due to injury or degeneration. Symptoms may involve persistent pain that worsens with certain movements or positions, a sensation of "giving way" in the spine, and muscle fatigue or spasms.
Arthritis affecting the spine, particularly osteoarthritis, involves the gradual breakdown of the cartilage between spinal joints. This can lead to joint pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Symptoms often worsen after periods of inactivity or with specific movements.
Degenerative disc disease
This condition involves the breakdown of intervertebral discs over time. This can lead to chronic low back pain that may vary in intensity and may worsen with physical activity. Pain is often experienced in the lower back and may radiate to the buttocks and thighs. Activities like sitting, bending and lifting weights will aggravate the pain whilst standing and walking will relieve the pain.
Sciatica is characterised by pain that originates in the lower back and radiates down the back of the leg, following the path of the sciatic nerve. It often results from compression or irritation of the nerve, which can be caused by conditions like disc herniation or spinal stenosis.
What are the Treatments Available for Back Pain (Spinal Conditions)?
Non-Surgical Treatments for Back Pain (Spinal Conditions)
Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of spinal conditions. A skilled physical therapist will assess your condition and design a personalised exercise programme to improve your strength, flexibility, and overall spinal health. It can help you regain your range of motion, correct posture, alleviate pain, and enhance your ability to perform daily activities.
Epidural injections are a minimally invasive procedure where anti-inflammatory medications are injected into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord and nerves. This can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation associated with spinal conditions such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis. It may also be used alongside other treatments such as physical therapy and other rehabilitative activities.
Medication management involves the use of various medications to improve your comfort and function, but it is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate medications and dosages according to your spinal condition and specific needs.
Surgical Treatments for Back Pain (Spinal Conditions)
Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that plays a crucial role in addressing spinal instability and pain caused by various conditions. During this procedure, two or more vertebrae are carefully fused together using bone grafts, screws, rods, or other devices. This fusion restricts movement between the fused vertebrae, providing stability to the spine.
Artificial Disc Replacement
Artificial disc replacement, also known as total disc replacement or arthroplasty, is a surgical technique aimed at addressing spinal disc problems while preserving spinal mobility. In this procedure, a damaged or degenerated intervertebral disc is replaced with an artificial disc made from biocompatible materials.
Laminectomy is a surgical intervention primarily used to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. It involves the removal of a portion of the lamina, which is the bony arch covering the spinal canal. By creating additional space within the spinal canal, laminectomy helps relieve compression caused by conditions such as spinal stenosis or herniated discs.
Discectomy is a surgical procedure specifically designed to address issues related to herniated or damaged spinal discs. When a spinal disc becomes herniated, its inner material can press against surrounding nerves, leading to pain and discomfort. In this surgical procedure, the surgeon carefully removes the portion of the disc that is causing the compression.
How Can the Source of Your Back Pain (Spinal Conditions) Be Diagnosed?
Diagnosing what's causing spinal problems takes a methodical approach led by specialists who are experts in this field. It's important to stress that trying to diagnose yourself based on online information is risky and can lead to inaccurate conclusions. Therefore, seeking a medical opinion is best when it comes to clearing doubts and determining the severity of your condition.
- Checking Your Nerves and Muscles
- Specialist Consultations
- Physical Examination
- Performing Imaging Tests
- Examining Your Medical History
What is the Anatomy of the Spine?
The spine is a remarkable structure composed of 33 vertebrae, divided into five regions:
These are in your neck area and supports and help you turn your head.
They are anchoring points to your ribs and keep your upper body stable.
Lumbar (lower back)
This can be found in your lower back and supports your body weight.
These are fused together and make up your pelvis.
These are at the very bottom of your spine and help you balance when you sit.
Between each vertebra is a soft, gel-like disc known as the intervertebral disc to act as a shock absorber, enabling smooth movements and preventing bone-on-bone friction. They are held together by ligaments, tendons, and muscles that surround the spine.
These vertebrae also have a hole in the centre which, when stacked together, forms a hollow tube where you can find the spinal cord. It's a bundle of nerves that carries messages back and forth between your brain and the rest of your body. This is how your brain tells your body what to do, like when you want to pick up something or take a step.
Furthermore, like sections of a ladder, your spine has different parts. The top part is called the cervical region, is your neck. Moving on, the middle part is the thoracic region, where your ribcage is attached. The lower part is the lumbar region, which supports your lower back. Finally, the sacral and coccygeal regions are near your pelvis and tailbone.
How Can You Reduce the Risk of Developing Back Pain (Spinal Conditions)?
Practise Good Posture
Maintaining proper posture while sitting, standing, and lifting is essential. Avoid slouching and make an effort to keep your spine aligned. You can also consider using ergonomic furniture in your work and personal space to promote a neutral spine position.
Engage in regular physical activity to strengthen the muscles that support your spine. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga can help maintain flexibility, reduce the risk of spinal problems, and improve overall fitness. Throughout the day, you can also take breaks to stand, stretch, and move around regularly, especially if you have a sedentary job.
Wear Appropriate and Comfortable Footwear
Choosing the right footwear is not only about style but also about supporting your spine. Opt for shoes that provide adequate arch support along with good cushioning to promote balanced weight distribution as well as reduce the impact on your spine when walking or standing.
Schedule Regular Checkups
Regular checkups with a healthcare provider, including a spine specialist if needed, can play a crucial role in preventing and addressing spinal conditions. Furthermore, detecting problems at an early stage can lead to more effective treatments and better outcomes.
When Should You Seek Professional Help?
If you notice these symptoms, we strongly recommend you seek medical help as soon as possible:
- The pain is persistent and worsening.
- You lose control of your bowels or bladder.
- You experience severe back pain that extends to other body parts.
- You have a history of spinal conditions.
- It impacts your day-to-day life.
- Your arms and legs feel weak.
Remember, seeking early professional evaluation can lead to an accurate diagnosis and timely intervention, which can prevent further progression of spinal conditions and improve your overall well-being.
Are You or a Loved One Suffering from Back Pain (Spinal Conditions)?
Spinal conditions may seem intimidating, but we at Avant Orthopaedics are here to guide you every step of the way.
Please don’t hesitate to book an appointment with us if you or your loved one is suspected of or is currently suffering from spinal conditions. We will provide personalised consultations and suggest the best-suited treatments.