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Pain relating to the spine

he spine consists of  three sections – cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper back) and the lumbar spine (lower back). It is one of the most important parts of your body, it gives your body its structure and support,allowing your core to move freely and bend with flexibility, and most importantly it is designed to protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a column of nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body, allowing the brain to control the body, and the body to send signals to your brain.

Treatments for pain relating to the spine vary depending on how long you have had the pain, how severe it is, and your individual needs and preferences.

For most people, degenerative disc disease can be successfully treated with conservative care incorporating medication to control inflammation and pain, physiotherapy and exercise. However, surgery may also be considered when patients have not achieved relief over three to six months of such treatment and/or are significantly restricted in performing their daily activities.

Our surgeons at Q9 Orthopaedic and Spine Centre have substantial training and experience in performing minimally invasive spine surgeries to treat spinal diseases and disorders. Using techniques with much smaller incisions and less tissue dissection, ultimately leads to a shorter hospitalisation period and speedy recovery.

The majority of pain in the spine is mechanical in nature. In many cases, it is associated with spondylosis, a term that refers to the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people age. Some examples of mechanical causes of spinal pain include:

Sprains and strains account for most acute pain. Sprains are caused by overstretching or tearing ligaments, and strains are tears in tendon or muscle. Both can occur from twisting or lifting something too heavy or improperly, or overstretching. Such movements may also trigger spasms in back muscles, which can also be painful.

Intervertebral disc degeneration is one of the most common mechanical causes of pain, and it occurs when the discs lose integrity as a normal process of aging. In a healthy spine, intervertebral discs provide height and allow bending, flexion, and torsion. As the discs deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability.

Herniated or ruptured discs can occur when the intervertebral discs become compressed and bulge outward (herniation) or rupture.

Radiculopathy is a condition caused by compression, inflammation and/or injury to a spinal nerve root. Pressure on the nerve root results in pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation that travels or radiates to other areas of the body that are served by that nerve. Radiculopathy may occur when spinal stenosis or a herniated or ruptured disc compresses the nerve root.

Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. This compression causes shock-like or burning low back pain combined with pain through the buttocks and down one leg, occasionally reaching the foot. In the most extreme cases, when the nerve is pinched between the disc and the adjacent bone, the symptoms may involve not only pain, but numbness and muscle weakness in the leg because of interrupted nerve signaling. The condition may also be caused by a tumor or cyst that presses on the sciatic nerve or its roots.

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine slips out of place, pinching the nerves exiting the spinal column.

A traumatic injury, such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall can injure tendons, ligaments or muscle resulting in low back pain. Traumatic injury may also cause the spine to become overly compressed, which in turn can cause an intervertebral disc to rupture or herniate, exerting pressure on any of the nerves rooted to the spinal cord. When spinal nerves become compressed and irritated, back pain and sciatica may result.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that can cause pain or numbness with walking and over time leads to leg weakness and sensory loss.

Skeletal irregularities include scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that does not usually cause pain until middle age; lordosis, an abnormally accentuated arch in the lower back; and other congenital anomalies of the spine.