10 of the most prevalent spine issues


Some people have the misconception that back problems are something only the elderly deal with. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Back pain is one of the most prevalent health issues Americans face. Some studies show that a staggering 30 million people of various ages suffer from back pain annually.

Here's another alarming statistic: Back pain is the leading cause of disability globally. Back pain can happen to anyone, and it is the main reason people worldwide miss work. One of the primary causes of back pain is spine issues. 

Here are 10 of the most prevalent spine issues and how to deal with them, according to Mohamed Abdulhamid, MD, neurosurgeon and the founding director and CEO of Royal Spine Surgery in Phoenix:

1.Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces within your spine narrow down. This puts pressure on the nerves that travel through your spine. This typically occurs in the neck and the lower back. Some people with spinal stenosis may not experience any symptoms.

However, others will experience numbness, tingling and pain. The symptoms can worsen over time. The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis. Your physician might recommend surgery to create additional space for the nerves or spinal cord in severe cases.

2. Spondylolisthesis

The spine's vertebrae are kept in a specific position. Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the spine's vertebrae slides forward (and over the vertebra situated below it). The condition can cause severe pain as the spinal cord can get squeezed or damaged.

Common symptoms of the condition include losing feeling in the limbs and difficulty walking. While surgery is the option for severe cases, mild cases can be easily managed with pain medications, weight loss and physical therapy.

3. Osteoarthritis

Many people think arthritis only affects the hands and limbs. Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints, and it affects every area of the body. The condition can cause spine issues as well.

In patients suffering from the condition, the cartilage and the joints in the spine deteriorate, causing pain and inflammation. At times, it leads to nerve damage and bone spurs. Exercise, acupuncture, massage and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage the symptoms of the condition.

4. Spinal myelopathy

This condition develops when the spinal cord becomes damaged due to degeneration. As you get older, the components of the spine and back can change and become weaker. In some cases, it eventually leads to spinal damage.

Common symptoms of spinal myelopathy include loss of balance, tingling, muscle weakness, numbness of the feet and hands, and pain. Surgery can prevent symptoms from worsening and slow down the progression of the condition.

5. Compression fracture

As you age and your bones weaken, various hairline fractures and cracks can develop in the vertebrae. If too many cracks develop in the spine, it can result in a compression fracture. The condition is also called a collapsed vertebra.

The condition is often caused by osteoporosis. However, those who are very thin and have bone cancer are more prone to developing the condition. Fractures can be very painful, but pain medications and physical therapy can help manage the condition.

6. Sciatica

The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down the leg. If you are suffering from the condition, you will likely experience numbness, pain and weakness in the lower back that travels down your leg.

Steroid injections, physical therapy and working with a chiropractor can help manage the pain the condition brings. You might also be prescribed muscle relaxants, pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to help manage the condition.

7. Osteoporosis

This condition is common among older adults. It occurs when the bones are weakened because of lower bone mass. Weakened bones in the spine can also become damaged and brittle. This can result in collapsed vertebrae, fractures and a hunched posture.

You can prevent the condition from developing by maintaining a diet filled with vitamin D and calcium to help strengthen the bones. Running, walking and weightlifting can also help you improve your balance and bone health.

8. Whiplash

This neck injury can be attributed to the sudden motion or jerking of the head. Awkward and sudden neck movements can also strain the neck muscles and cause damage to the intervertebral discs, joints and ligaments in the neck.

Most people won't feel any symptoms immediately, but within 24 hours, they can likely experience headache, lower back pain, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, stiff neck and neck pain.

Icing and over-the-counter pain medication can help the first 24 hours after the condition has developed. Other treatment options can include heating pads, massage and physical therapy.

9. Herniated disc

When a disc becomes herniated, the cushions between each bone have shifted and are bursting out of its casing. Some people suffering from a herniated disc will not experience any symptoms, but others might experience tingling, numbness, back pain, pain in the arms and legs, and muscle weakness.

A herniated disc typically occurs in the lower back, but it can also occur in the upper back. You can lower the risk of developing the condition by keeping a good posture, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.

10. Muscle strain

Stress, overuse and bad posture can cause the muscles around your spine to become tense and strained. The condition can result in tightness and pain throughout the back and neck. To strengthen your back muscles, you can exercise and maintain a healthy weight. You can also prevent muscle pain from developing by stretching before doing any strenuous activity.

Dr. Mohamed M. Abdulhamid is a neurosurgeon and the founding director and CEO of Royal Spine Surgery in Phoenix. He is certified in total cervical disc replacement, or artificial disc replacement, in minimally invasive Coflex procedure, in minimally invasive discectomy and in intraoperative navigation and image-guided surgery. In addition to traveling for work, Dr. Abdulhamid enjoys traveling with his family. He also enjoys photography and he uses his camera to capture the beautiful landscape surrounding him locally and while traveling.

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