In order to properly delve into the various spine problems, it’s important to know more about the spine.
The spine, or otherwise known as the backbone, and vertebral column, is a network of bones, tissues, and nerves in your body that is composed of 33 interlocking bones that are called vertebrae. These bones or vertebrae are separated and held in place by soft, compressible discs known as vertebral discs and are supported in turn, by many different muscles and ligaments.
The spine is most commonly divided into 4 parts, namely the: Cervical area (neck), Thoracic area (upper and middle area of your back), Lumbar area (lower back area), and Sacral area (pelvis). In other medical definitions, there is a 5th part which is the coccyx or otherwise known as the tailbone.
Any abnormality or irregularity that may arise from one of these 33 interlocking bones, or in any one of these areas can cause a whole host of spine problems to arise. The spine problem that may arise will vary from what area the abnormality or irregularity has originated from, but usually, it will involve back pain, weakness and sometimes numbness in the area affected.
Most Common Spine Problems and Purposes of each spinal region and their Symptoms
1. Neck Pain – A pain in the neck may suggest a spine problem in the cervical area of your spine. your cervical discs are responsible for stabilizing your neck and enabling the neck to reach a degree of mobility, and a problem in any one of these discs or bones can be cause for concern. Some spine problems that may arise from the cervical region of your spine are:
- Cervical disc disease – cervical disc disease is a spine problem that arises when the discs in the cervical area of your spine start to degenerate and wear out, and the space between each vertebra narrows resulting in the pinching of nerves.
- Herniated Discs – A herniated disc also known as a slipped disc can occur in any region of your spine, and is a condition where a spinal disc bulges out or breaks open.
Some symptoms of cervical spine problems include:
- Neck stiffness
- Radiating neck pain, weakness, and numbness that may spread to the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Limited range of neck movement
2. Upper Back Pain– Pain in the upper back is a clear indication of a spine problem in the thoracic region of your spine. The thoracic spine has the purpose of keeping stability and holding your upper body upright. The thoracic spine also has the purpose of providing protection for the vital organs in your torso. There are a whole host of spine problems and symptoms that can arise from the thoracic area of your spine. Some of these are:
- Kyphosis or hunchback – Kyphosis occurs mainly in the upper back, and although it is a deformity, it can also cause pain.
- Herniated discs– Herniated discs or the bulging and slipping out of vertebral discs from the spine can occur in any region of your spine, including the thoracic area.
3. Lower Back Pain – A pain in your lower back may suggest a spine problem in the lumbar region of your spine. The lumbar region of your spine is responsible for holding up most of the weight of the torso, and hence has bones larger than the rest of your spine to support this purpose. Some spine problems that may arise from the lower back pain include:
- Osteoarthritis – the natural wear and tear of your spinal discs due to age
- Spinal stenosis – the abnormal narrowing of a bone channel or spaces in your spine, affecting the nerves that travel through it.
- Sciatica – a lumbar spine problem affecting the sciatic nerve that is characterized by pain that runs through the lower back through your hips and buttocks down to the back of each leg.
- Herniated Disc – as mentioned before, a bulging or slipping out of the cartilage discs in your spine
- Scoliosis – abnormal curvature of the spine
Common symptoms of lumbar spine problems include:
- Back pain, numbness, and weakness
- Difficulty walking and maintaining proper posture
- Difficulty in lifting objects
- Limited range of movement
Spine Problems: Diagnostic Procedures and Treatment
To diagnose spine problems regardless of what region of your spine it arises from, a doctor or medical specialist will usually begin by consulting your medical history and performing various physical and neurological tests on you. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI and CT Scan will then be used to further investigate the source and cause of the spine problem you are experiencing.
Most Spine Problems and Disc Diseases, especially in their early stages will usually require only physical therapy and a dosage of over the counter medical painkillers to reduce pain and inflammation. More serious cases will require surgery, and corresponding physical therapy after the surgical procedure.