Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
As we age, our vertebral discs, which serve as the spine’s shock absorbers between the vertebrae, gradually dry out, affecting their strength and resiliency. This can lead to degenerative disc disease (DDD).Disc degeneration is a normal part of aging and usually is not a problem.
However, DDD can cause discs to lose height and become stiff. When disc height is lost, nerve impingement or bone and joint inflammation may occur. When disc degeneration occurs there is loss of the joint space, similar to arthritis pain and inflammation. In severe cases, pain may be continual.
The symptoms of this condition depend on the location of the problem. Lower Back DDD often presents as a continuous, dull and aching lower back pain that can travel down the hips & legs. The pain can be worse when sitting due to pressure placed on the discs, and severe cases may also experience numbness and tingling. Neck DDD symptoms often include pain that often appears as a stiff neck, numbness, tingling, and, in some cases, there may be pain and numbness down the arms and into the hand(s).
Herniated or Bulging Discs
This is a condition which refers to a problem with a rubbery disc between the vertebra(e) in the spine. This condition occurs when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing, and the disc comes into contact with the nerve.
Some herniated discs cause no symptoms at all, but if the disc material comes into contact with a spinal nerve it will cause a variety of symptoms such as a dull ache on one side of the body, pain when you cough, sneeze, or move into certain positions, numbness, tingling, or burning sensations, usually from the compressed nerve. Other symptoms include pain that’s worse with sitting, but can also be exaggerated with standing, walking, and bending, muscle weakness or spasm that may affect your ability to lift or hold items, and balance issues or limping due to weakness and/or pain.
Spinal Instability due to a slipped vertebra Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition in which one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below. Degenerative spondylolisthesis often occurs in the lumbar spine, more commonly at L4-L5 which is almost at the bottom of the spine. Spondylolisthesis can result from degenerative changes in the vertebral structure that causes the joints between the vertebrae to slip forward and may lead to spinal stenosis.
Spondylolisthesis symptoms include lower back and/or sciatic nerve leg pain accompanied with muscle spasms, legs often feeling tired after a prolonged period of standing or walking, tight hamstring muscles, and an irregular gait or limp.
Central Spinal Canal Stenosis
Narrowing of the central spinal canal Central Canal Stenosis is a condition where there is less space within your spine , so your nerves and spinal cord become compressed. Some people are born like this, but more often than not the narrowing is the result of osteoarthritis or “wear-and-tear” changes that naturally occur in your spine as you age.
Symptoms include pain in the buttocks, thigh or leg that develops with standing or walking, and improves with rest. In some cases, patients complain of leg pain and weakness without having any back pain. More severe symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower extremities.
Neural Foraminal Stenosis
Side Nerve Compression or Impingement Neural foraminal stenosis refers to compression of a spinal nerves as they leave the spinal canal through the foramen (the opening between the vertebrae through which spinal nerve roots travel and exit to other parts of the body).
The symptoms of this condition depend on the location of the narrowing, but most often foraminal stenosis affects the neck or lower back; neck symptoms may include neck pain that radiates to the arm and hands, numbness, tingling and weakness of the upper extremities. Symptoms affecting the back include low back pain that radiates to the buttock and lower leg, numbness, tingling and weakness of the lower extremities. The symptoms are worse upon exertion to such an extent that walking becomes difficult. The pain may also get worse from backward and sideways bending and upon rotating or swiveling. Often forward flexing and sitting relieve the symptoms.
Osteoarthritis/Facet Joint Syndrome
Arthritis of the spine Osteoarthritis of the spine usually affects the facet joints between the vertebrae. It is also known as facet joint arthritis, facet joint syndrome and facet disease. In some cases, degeneration of the spinal discs (degenerative disc disease) may contribute to facet joint arthritis. As discs between the vertebrae become thinner, more pressure is transferred to the facet joints. This leads to more friction and more damage to the cartilage and also results in a narrowing of the spinal canal which causes nerve compression and pain.
Osteoarthritis is primarily described as stiffness and pain in the joints that tend to be worse first thing in the morning and again late at night. Other symptoms include warmth, swelling, tenderness, loss of flexibility and a dull, prolonged pain – all of which affect the joints specifically.
The development of a fluid-filled cyst within the spinal cord; overtime the cyst may enlarge, damaging the spinal cord and causing pain and weakness.
Syringomyelia is characterized by progressive weakness and pain in the back, shoulders, arms, or legs, an inability to feel hot or cold, a loss of pain sensation, difficulty walking, bowel and bladder function problems, and potentially curvature of the spine, or scoliosis.
Spinal Cord Tumors
A growth that develops within your spinal canal/cord or within the bones of your spine; these growths may be cancerous or benign.
Spinal cord tumors have a variety of symptoms including back pain that may radiate to other parts of the body, decreased sensitivity to heat and cold, and pain, difficulty walking, a potential to falling, a change in bowel habits, difficulty with urination, and varying degrees of paralysis.
Compression Fractures of the Spine
A compression fracture is usually defined as a vertebral bone in the spine that has decreased at least 15 to 20% in height due to fracture. Often times, these fractures are the result of osteoporosis that occurs as part of aging. A fall, severe cough, or lifting of a heavy object may cause a fracture of the back bones. In addition, they may be the result of a treatment that weakens the bone in the spine such as chemotherapy or radiation.
The most common symptom of a compression fracture is back pain that may get worse when you stand or walk but where you may get some relief when you lie down, trouble bending or twisting your body, loss of height, or a noticed curve of your spine.
Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)
Lumbar radiculopathy is disease that occurs as the result of nerve compression or inflammation of the lumbar spinal nerve root. It’s usually caused when a herniated disk or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve. Sciatica typically affects only one side of the body, but it can affect both.
Lumbar radiculopathy will present as pain that originates in the spine and radiates down the back of the leg(s). Patients may also experience pain in the buttocks, hip, or lower extremities. They may have difficulty walking or muscle weakness, leg numbness, pins and needles, a burning sensation, foot numbness, or weakness.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that is most often diagnosed in adolescents. It may be mild which just requires monitoring with x-rays or it may need surgical invention if the case is more severe. Sometimes scoliosis affects the space in the chest area which can make it difficult for the lungs to properly function.
Symptoms may include uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade may appear more prominent, an uneven waist, one hip that is higher than the other one, one side of the rib cage jutting forward or a a visible curve on the back when bending forward at the waist.