Cervical myelopathy is a rare condition that results from compression of the spinal cord in the neck. The spinal cord controls all of the signals for all the nerves in the body and thus compression of the spinal cord may prevent the nerves from functioning normally.
Cervical radiculopathy is the scientific term for a pinched nerve in the neck. This pinched nerve can cause neck pain, arm pain, and/or a combination of both neck and arm pain. This condition is seen in both younger patients (age 18 to 50) as well as older patients (>50 years of age).
While the prospect of walking around with a 'broken neck' is worrisome and frightful, the details of neck fractures and cervical spine trauma is quite complex. The injuries that can result from from trauma to the head and neck region can vary from a very small muscular strain that only causes some short term pain to catastrophic life threatening paralyzing conditions such as occipitocervical dissociation.
Lumbar disc herniations (herniated nucleus pulposus) are seen commonly in patients from age 18 to 60. It is estimated that 1-2% of the population throughout the course of their lifetime will have a herniated disc requiring medical/surgical treatment. It can cause back and lower extremity (buttock/leg) pain together, back pain alone, or lower extremity pain alone.
Lumbar radiculopathy is also known as sciatica. This is a general term used to describe the pain or sensation felt by a person when a nerve in the lower back has become pinched and/or irritated. It typically causes pain in the lower back as well as the lower extremity (buttock and leg).
The bones of the lower back are usually aligned in an arc with respect to one another. Occasionally, the bones might be shifted, with the upper bone sliding forward on the bone below. This is known as a spondylolisthesis, which is translated from Greek as 'slippage of the bone'.
Fractures to the thoracolumbar spine are not uncommon. Most commonly these present in the elderly population and are caused by osteoporosis. There is a separate website address in this educational series addressing osteoporotic fractures of the spine. On this site, we will talk about traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures in the younger population. The two most common mechanisms for thoracolumbar fractures are compression injuries and flexion distraction injuries.
Some people develop a curvature of their lower spine as they become older. They did not have this in their earlier years, but develop this curve as they age. Their spine appears crooked from the back, and one shoulder droops when compared to the other one. This condition is known as degenerative lumbar scoliosis.
Chronic neck pain is defined as neck pain that is lasting more than 3 months to the severity that one's activities of daily living are limited. Approximately 30% of adults have had chronic neck pain at some point in their lives.
Spine infections can be considered a serious and life-threatening problem. These can vary from mild pain- causing infections to completely paralytic infections that may even cause death. Most commonly a spine infection is acquired through the bloodstream and is present with an infection somewhere else in the patient's body. Rarely an infection can be due to procedures such as injections or surgery. In these cases, the infection is limited largely to the spine itself.
Osteoporosis is a very common condition seen in the orthopedic and spine patient population. Osteoporosis can be distinguished from osteopenia based on the severity of the condition. Osteoporosis is a severe decrease in the density of bone while osteopenia is a mild decrease in the density of bone.
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is a term used to denote an abnormal curvature of the spine in the coronal plane (left side <--> right side) commonly noted in teenagers. It is usually not a cause of pain and is usually noted incidentally by a physician during a school physical or by a family member.
Back pain comes in many flavors and shapes. It can be caused by a pinched nerve, a herniated disc, an infection, a tumor, a muscle strain, and the list can go one and on for pages. Most commonly, however, lower back pain in adults between age 35 and 65 is caused by degenerating discs. This is also called chronic axial lower back pain to emphasize that the lower extremities (buttocks/legs) are not affected.
Vertebral compression fractures occur when the normal vertebral body of the spine is squeezed or compressed to a smaller height. The bone collapses when too much pressure is placed on the vertebrae, resulting in pain, limited mobility, height loss, and spinal deformity.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs between the vertebrae. DDD is a misnomer as it is not actually a disease but a condition that affects the strength, resiliency and structural integrity of the intervertebral discs.
Disc herniation is a condition where the central nucleus pushes through the outer edge of the disk, causing a bulge that compresses the spinal nerves.
Sciatica is a painful condition caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in our bodies. It begins in the lower back and extends through the buttocks down the back of each leg to the thighs and feet.
The spine has two gentle curves when viewed from the side and appears straight when viewed from the front. An exaggeration of these curves results in a physical deformity. Spine deformity refers to the abnormal curvature of the spine.
Spine trauma is damage to the spine caused from a sudden traumatic injury caused by an accidental fall or any other physical injury. Spinal injuries may occur while playing, performing normal activities, operating heavy machines, lifting heavy objects, driving automobiles, or when you suffer a fall. Injury to the spine may cause various conditions including fractures, dislocation, partial misalignment (subluxation), disc compression (herniated disc), hematoma (accumulation of blood) and partial or complete tears of ligaments.
Metastatic Spine Tumors is the abnormal growths of uncontrolled tissues or cells in and around the spinal cord. Tumors can either be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Some of the commonly occurring benign spinal tumors are osteoma, osteoblastoma, hemangioma, and osteochondroma. Most commonly occurring malignant spinal tumors are chondrosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and multiple myeloma. Tumors that begin in the spine are called as primary spinal tumors.
Kyphosis is a condition of abnormal curvature of the spine that causes rounding of the upper back or a hunchback. The thoracic portion of the spine normally has a C-shaped curve, but excessive forward curve in the spine leads to kyphosis.