Written By Dr. Mohamed M. Abdulhamid / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
If you can sit or stand upright, you have your spine to thank. The spine is the stack of little bones - called vertebrae - that's situated along the center of your back. Your spine works by supporting your shoulders, head, and upper body.
However, your spine plays a more important role: it serves as a tunnel for your spinal cord - the set of nerves that connects the brain and the rest of the body.
The Most Common Spine Problems
Spine issues can be attributed to various causes. For instance, spine problems can develop when the spine curves the wrong way or when the spinal curves get too large. Problems can also occur when the vertebrae are no longer strong enough to effectively support the spine.
The good news is there are ways to resolve spine problems, with spine surgery often considered the last resort.
Below are some of the most prevalent spine issues as well as the most common symptoms:
A herniated disc occurs when the cushioning of the disc shifts and bursts out of its casing. Some of the most common symptoms that point to a herniated disc include:
- Back pain
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in the legs and arms
Bad position/posture, stress, and overuse can cause muscles around the spine to become tense and strained. One of the most common symptoms of muscle strain includes tightness and pain around the back.
This condition refers to the abnormal curvature or bending of the spine. The condition can range from minor to severe. Scoliosis affects approximately nine million Americans. The typical age of onset for scoliosis is during adolescence or childhood. Common symptoms and signs of scoliosis include:
- Different heights of the rib cages
- Uneven shoulders
- Head not centered above the pelvis
- One (or both) sides of the hips are higher than normal
- Body leans to one side
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. It can also damage the ligaments in the neck, discs, and intervertebral joints. Common signs of whiplash include:
- Stiff neck
- Neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Difficulty concentrating
This spine issue is common among older adults. Osteoporosis refers to weakened bones that are caused by lower bone mass. Weakened bones in the spine can become damaged and brittle and may even lead to a hunched posture, collapsed vertebrae, or fractures.
Osteoporosis often does not exhibit any symptoms until the bones become osteoporotic. However, you can keep the condition at bay by maintaining a healthy diet and consuming foods rich in vitamin D and calcium to help strengthen the bones. You can also boost bone health by exercising.
Sciatica occurs when there is damage to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the leg. Some of the most common sciatica symptoms include numbness, pain, and weakness in the lower back that radiates down the leg. Damage to the sciatic nerve can be attributed to a bone spur, herniated disc, or spine narrowing.
With age, bones can weaken, and various hairline fractures and cracks can also develop in the vertebrae. If several fractures and cracks develop in the spine, a collapsed vertebra or compression fracture can occur. Fractures can be very painful but can be managed by pain medications.
Spinal myelopathy occurs when the spinal cord is damaged due to degeneration. In other words, the components of the spine and back can change as you age and can become weaker. Eventually, this can result in spinal damage. Common symptoms of the condition include loss of balance, tingling, pain, muscle weakness, and numbness of the feet and hands.
Arthritis, which is the inflammation of the joints, will not only affect the hands and limbs, it can also cause spine issues. When the cartilage and the joints in the spine deteriorate, nerve damage and bone spurs can develop. Exercise, acupuncture, and maintaining a healthy weight can all help manage the symptoms of the condition.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when the spine's vertebrae slide forward and over the vertebrae located below it. This can cause extreme pain as the spinal cord can get squeezed or damaged.
In some cases, you will lose bladder control and lose the feeling in your limbs. You might also find it difficult to walk. While surgery can be the option in severe cases, mild cases can be managed by weight loss, pain medications, physical therapy, and core strengthening exercises.
Spine issues are more common than most people think. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms above, consider it best to visit your doctor so any problem can be addressed right away before they require costly interventions.
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Dr. Mohamed M. Abdulhamid is a neurosurgeon and the Founding Director and CEO of Royal Spine Surgery in Phoenix, Arizona. 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.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “