A fine spine - Common disorders of the spine
- By Dr. T Deepa Porkodi
The spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae that are stacked one upon the other. When viewed from the side, the normal spine has gentle curves to it. Because the spine is a complex structure and happens to be at the center of all our activities, it is subjected to a lot of diseases.
A common misconception of low backache is that you should rest. In fact, rest is not recommended at all. Keep up with light non-strenuous activities after the symptoms have subsided.
Given here are a few common conditions of the spine:
- Loss of curvature:
The spine, when seen sideways has gentle curves to it. The curves, when lost, can lead to pain and imperfect posture. Kyphosis and Scoliosis are the commonest form of spine curvature abnormalities.Kyphosis is the abnormal and excessive curving of the upper part of the spine. It is commonly called as a hump. It may be present since birth or may develop during the teenage years. The most common symptoms seen are a hump, back pain and muscle stiffness. The pain remains constant and does not worsen over time. If the curvature is too much, then the thoracic cage may get compressed and pressed for space. This may cause cardio-thoracic problems like chest pain, shortness of breath and even death. Compression of spinal nerves may cause loss of bladder and bowel control, loss of sensation and muscle weakness. Kyphosis is treated with physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and in severe cases, with bracing.Scoliosis is the side-to-side curvature that occurs during growth spurts before puberty. It may also be caused by spinal cord injuries and arthritis. Scoliosis develops gradually. The symptoms seen are usually by people other than the patient, where they may notice a slight slouch while walking. At times it may be seen that clothes that used to fit earlier are now ill-fitting. The pants seem to have shortened on one side. The curvature if mild responds well to physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is also useful as it helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles. This helps in stopping the progression of curvature. Severe cases require bracing and even surgical intervention with rods, hooks, wires and screws to correct the curvature.
Sciatica is a condition that arises when the sciatic nerve is pressed upon. This condition arises when a degenerated vertebra presses upon the disc below it, or when there is a disc prolapse. Abnormally tight piriformis muscle of the buttocks and a tumor in the spine may also cause sciatic pain. The hallmark symptom is the characteristic pain along the leg that starts from the hip and radiates all the way down. The pain is worsened by sitting and tingling numbness also develops. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medicines and physiotherapy.
When the spine is subjected to the pressures of daily activity, there is a lot of wear and tear that goes on in the vertebrae. This may cause the vertebra to move forward and slide on the vertebra below it. As a result, you may experience a constant backache. Spondylolisthesis can be congenital, it may occur due to trauma to the vertebral column, due to a tumor in the vertebra or due to degenerative changes in the vertebra and cartilage as a result of diseases like arthritis. Low backache is the hallmark of this disease. The pain is typically worse after any exercise that involves the lower back. The motions of low back are restricted and if there is nerve compression then tingling and numbness along the leg may also be seen.Rest and avoiding exertion of back muscles helps reduce the symptoms. Physiotherapy helps in restoring the strength and improving the range of motions.
- Spinal Stenosis:
Degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis cause development of bone spurs in the vertebral column leading to its narrowing. This puts pressure on the nerves and leads to pain and tingling and numbness.
- Cervical Spondylosis:
This condition occurs due to degenerative changes in the vertebrae of the neck region. Commonly seen as neck stiffness with pain that radiates all the way down the arm. The pain occurs as the nerves get compressed by disc prolapse or bone outgrowths in the vertebra. Treatment includes neck immobilization, cervical traction, medications for pain and physiotherapy.
Ways to reduce spine problems and backache are:
- Quit smoking
- Adopt a perfect posture
- Do exercises that will strengthen your core, lower back muscles and abs.
- Do not ignore or overlook the pains. Consult your doctor at the earliest.
Spinal problems are the ones that are frequently overlooked. Ignoring the symptoms may lead to worsening of the problem. See your doctor at the earliest to be safe.
The spine is the backbone of our body, in the true sense of the word. It is up to us to keep our spine in good condition as an unhealthy spine will interfere with almost all our body functions.