Spinal problems are one of the most common health issues that affect millions of people worldwide. Approximately 78%-80% of people report suffering from minor or major spinal problems in their entire lifetime. Off late, the problem is found to be more commonly affecting adolescents and people of a young age. This is mostly because of the modern lifestyle, increasing luxury and decreasing physical activities. On the contrary, spinal problems in adults may occur due to varied reasons. From bone degeneration to hormonal imbalance, musculoskeletal disorders to physical trauma or injury, advancing age can make adults face a number of skeletal problems. The treatments for such problems vary as per type and extent of disorder affecting the candidate. Where slipped disc treatment is suggested for misplaced vertebral plates, common spinal surgeries, or microdiscectomy may also be required in order to fix and treat the damages. However, regular exercise, physiotherapy and in severe cases, painkillers are preliminary suggested in most cases.
a. What are spine-related conditions and injuries?
Lower back pain accounts for one of the most common spine-related issues, affecting millions worldwide. Approximately 10% of people diagnosed with spinal disorders are diagnosed with lower back pain disorders. The commonly affected regions included in spinal disorders are cervical and lumbar regions, as these portions are designed to bear most of the weight. There are a total of 7 cervical vertebrae and 5 lumbar vertebrae, which are mostly associated with weight-bearing or heavy physical strength bearing activities. Both adolescents and adults suffering from any kind of spinal issue show symptoms of pain, swelling, injury or degeneration.
Apart from that, a physical injury may result from accidents, or sudden trauma leading to spinal strain, slip disc, and several other injuries. Where age-related conditions like osteoarthritis and scoliosis can be prevented and treated, a spinal injury can often lead to consecutive neurological disorders and cause adverse effects. In extreme cases, accident damage to the spine may also result in partial or complete paralysis of the affected individual.
b. Common Spinal conditions and their treatments
Apart from disorders like kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine mostly in the thoracic and the sacrum region, leading to a protruding hunchback syndrome) and dorsalgia (strong backache), there are several other conditions which affect people at large.
- Spinal stenosis: Abnormal thinning or narrowing of the neural foramen (hollow cavity in the vertebrae through which the spinal canal passes), which poses enhanced pressure on the nerves.
- Spondylosis: One of the most common vertebral degenerative diseases that affect a huge number of people.
- Scoliosis: Curving of the vertebrae resulting in a C-shaped structure; mostly occurring among older people.
The above diseases are surgically treated by spinal fusion or orthopedic fixation of the two or more than two vertebrae. The process may also be performed to improve neurological condition occurring due to the above disorders.
- Spinal Muscle Atrophy: Assimilation of several neuromuscular diseases that cause degeneration of motor neurons. Divided into four types namely: SMA1, SMA2, SMA3, and SMA4, the condition primarily causes twitching or straining of a muscle, lack of movement, respiratory disorders, etc.
- Spinal Bifida: Improper closure of the spinal membrane which results is partial exposure of the spinal canal. The condition is mostly congenital.
- Cauda Equina Syndrome: Damaged nerve bundles below the cauda equina region
c. Common sports-related spine injuries
Most of the sports-related spine injuries occur in the cervical and lumbar region. Sports like boxing, wrestling, rugby, football, hockey, diving, skiing, lifting, and surfing are the most common fields where incurring spinal injuries are pretty common. Damage of any kind to the spine may result in serious consequences. Hence, here are some of the common sports-related injuries:
- Grave trauma to the brachial plexus nerve
- Spinal stenosis (cervical or lumbar)
- Acute spinal strains (cervical or lumber)
- Intervertebral of disc injury or slip disc
- Fractures (cervical or lumbar)
d. What are some of the diagnostic tests required for diagnosing spine conditions?
Diagnosing the type of spinal disorder is preliminary before providing any treatment. It helps in determining what kind of treatment a candidate needs, and the extent of it required.
- X-rays: One of the most primary treatments suggested, X-rays help in determining the condition of the bone, like spacing between vertebral plates, cracks or fractures, possible degeneration, etc.
- CT-scan: CTs are highly preferred for obtaining 2D and 3D scanned images, which are helpful in studying bone anatomy better.
- MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imagining is used to determine high definition images of bone anatomy, in order to check disc spacing, age-related degenerative issues, herniated discs, spinal nerve issues, congenital diseases, etc.
- Myelogram: Kind of study that uses specific dye in order to determine the compression of the spinal nerves
- Discogram: Injection of special dye in the vertebral discs to understand the root cause of certain spinal pain.
- Bone Density Scan: Primarily helpful in determining the density of bone, and measure the degeneration or loss in bone mass.