Back pain is also the leading cause of disability globally, it’s the number one reason why people miss work, and it can happen to anyone. Spine issues are some of the leading causes of back pain.
Let’s look at the most common spine issues and what you can do alleviate the pain from them.
Herniated Disc - The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Discs act as cushions between each bone.
When a disc becomes herniated, that means the cushioning has shifted and is bursting out of its casing. While some herniated discs lead to no symptoms, they can often interfere with nerves in the spine. This can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Back pain
- Pain in the arms and legs
- Muscle weakness
A herniated disc happens most often in the lower back, but they can also happen in the upper back as well. You can lower the risk of a disc herniation by maintaining a healthy weight, keeping a good posture throughout the day, and exercising.
Muscle Strain - Overuse, stress, and bad posture/positions can lead to the muscles around your spine become strained and tense. This can cause pain and tightness throughout your neck and back. You can strengthen your back muscles by exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Stretching before strenuous activity can also help avoid muscle strain.
Scoliosis - Scoliosis refers to abnormal spinal bending or curvature. This condition can range from minor to severe. The most common age of onset for scoliosis is during childhood or adolescence. Some signs and symptoms of scoliosis include:
- Uneven shoulders
- Different heights of rib cages
- One or both sides of hips higher than normal
- Body “leans” to one side
- Head not centred above pelvis
- Along with these symptoms, scoliosis can cause back pain and lead to pinched nerves.
The treatment for scoliosis varies depending on the severity of the case and the age of the patient. Some treatment options include bracing, physical therapy, and surgery.
Whiplash - Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden jerking or motion of the head. This sudden and awkward movement of the neck can strain the neck muscles. It can also damage intervertebral joints, discs, and ligaments in the neck. After the event or the trauma, many people don’t feel symptoms right away. It can take 24 hours to begin feeling whiplash symptoms, which include:
- Neck pain
- Stiff neck
- Lower back pain
- Difficulty concentrating
Icing can help in the first 24 hours after injury. Other methods of treatment include massage, physical therapy, and heating pads.
Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis is one of the most common spine issues in older adults. It refers to weakened bones due to a lower bone mass. Weakened bones in the spine become brittle and damaged, which can lead to fractures, collapsed vertebrae, and a hunched posture. It can be hard to tell your bones are becoming weaker because there aren’t many symptoms that occur until the bones are already osteoporotic. You can try to avoid this by maintaining a healthy diet filled with calcium and vitamin D rich foods to help strengthen your bones. Exercise like walking, running, and weightlifting can improve your balance, posture, and bone health.
Sciatica - The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back all the way down your leg. Sciatica is a condition where you feel pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back that radiates down your leg as a result of sciatic nerve damage. This nerve damage could be caused by a narrowing spine that compresses the nerve, a herniated disc, or a bone spur. Physical therapy and massage can help manage the pain you’re experiencing from sciatica.
Compression Fracture - With age and weakening bones, various cracks and hairline fractures can occur in the vertebrae. If there are many of these cracks in your spine, it could result in a compression fracture, also called a collapsed vertebra. This mostly happens because of osteoporosis, but you’re also at risk if you have bone cancer, if you smoke, if you’re very thin, and if you’re a woman over 50. Fractures can be extremely painful; pain medications can help manage the pain. Physical therapy is another common treatment.
Spinal Myelopathy - Spinal myelopathy is when the spinal cord becomes damaged because of degeneration. What that means in English is that as you get older, the components of your back and spine change and become weaker, which can lead to spinal damage. This can lead to pain, numbness of hands and feet, muscle weakness, loss of balance, and tingling. Surgery can help prevent the progression and worsening of symptoms.
Osteoarthritis - Arthritis, which is the inflammation of the joints, can affect every area of the body and can cause spine issues as well. The joints and the cartilage in the spine deteriorates, which causes inflammation and pain. It can also lead to bone spurs and nerve damage. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, acupuncture, and massage can all help manage osteoarthritis symptoms.
Spondylolisthesis - The vertebrae of the spine are kept in particular positions. Spondylolisthesis is when one of the vertebrae of the spine slides forward and over the vertebra below it. This can cause severe pain as it can damage or squeeze the spinal cord. It can also cause you to lose feeling in your limbs, lose bladder control, and make it difficult to walk. Surgery can help severe cases, but usually, symptoms are managed with physical therapy, weight loss, pain medications, and core strengthening exercises.