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Understanding the Back & Spine

  • Common Conditions affecting the Back & Spine

    back-spine

    The spine, also known as the spinal column, is made up of a series of small bones (vertebrae) stacked on top of each other, running from the base of the skull to the pelvis. Between each vertebra are soft, gel-like cushions known as discs, which function to absorb shock while preventing the bones from rubbing against each other. The spinal column provides structure and support to the body, and offers protection to the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains nerves that sends and receives messages between the brain and the body, allowing for healthy organ function and movement control. Injuries to the spine could result from accidental falls, and in severe cases, paralysis may occur should the trauma affect the spinal cord.

    Common Back & Spine Injuries

    common-back-spine-injuries

    Lower Back Pain

    Lower back pain is one of the most common conditions related to spine health. There are many reasons for lower back pain. One of the common causes is gradual injury to the lower back muscles due to poor posture, improper sleeping position, inappropriate lifting techniques or chronic overuse. These injuries may affect the facet joint that links 2 vertebrae together in the spinal column, and the intervertebral discs that absorb shock between each vertebrae. Everyday activities may over time also lead to micro trauma in these areas and hinder smooth movement and function. As a result, there is pain, movement limitations, degeneration, which lead to general, non-specific lower back pain.

    Signs and symptoms include pain in the back, referred pain or altered sensation in the feet, pain upon weight bearing, pain during coughing or sneezing, muscle spasms, and limitation in movement. Treatment varies depending on the clinical condition and severity of the injury. Speak to your doctor to understand the injury affecting your mobility and the treatment options available.

  • Spondylosis

    spinal-osteoarthritis

    Spondylosis, also known as spinal osteoarthritis, is a degenerative condition of the joints of the spine, usually involving the discs, ligaments and joints. Spondylosis results in the discs losing their cushioning effect between the vertebrae (spinal bones), and the ligaments thickening or weakening, which can lead to small stress fractures in the vertebrae that weaken the bones so much that one slips out of place. This is a condition known as spondylolisthesis. Repetitive stresses to the spine, wear and tear due to age, and trauma, are the primary causes to spondylosis. In severe cases, spondylosis may cause pressure on the nerve roots, leading to pain or a tingling sensation in the legs or arms.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Most people have no symptoms and may not even be aware that they are suffering from spinal osteoarthritis. When symptoms are present, the common signs are:

    -Lower back pain
    -Pain radiating down the legs
    -Difficulty maintaining an upright posture

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor may check your medical history and perform a physical examination to observe your posture, physical condition, range of motion, and any pain experienced during movement. The following diagnostic tests may be prescribed to understand the extent of severity of the injury

    -X-ray
    -Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    -Computed tomography (CT) scan

    Treatment

    Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) to help alleviate the pain. Physiotherapy may also help to increase your range of motion over time. If your symptoms persist, or there is evidence of a severely compressed nerve, you may be recommended to undergo decompression surgery or a procedure known as spinal fusion. It is important to talk to your doctor to understand your condition and the treatment options best for you.

  • Sciatica

    sciatica

    Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is pain along the sciatic nerve, which extends from the back of the pelvis down the back of the thigh. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, and also the primary nerve of the leg. It controls the muscles in the back of the lower leg and knee, while providing sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot. Sciatica is usually caused by a herniated or ‘slipped’ disc in the spine that presses on a spinal nerve. Less common causes include a spinal injury or infection, growth within the spine (tumour), or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the nerve passages in spine).

    Signs & Symptoms

    Common symptoms of sciatica include:

    -Pain that extends down one leg
    -Lower back pain that radiates down the buttock and/or back of one thigh
    -Sensory changes, eg. numbness, pins and needles, the sensation of ants crawling     
    -Weakness

    Symptoms may vary among individuals. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor may check your medical history and perform a physical examination. The following diagnostic tests may be used to help understand the severity of the condition:

    -X-ray
    -Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

    Treatment

    Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) to help alleviate the pain. Physiotherapy may also help to increase the range of motion over time. If your symptoms persist, you may be recommended to undergo surgery to take the pressure off the affected spinal nerve. It is important to talk to your doctor to understand your condition and the treatment options.

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