The spine is a complicated network of bones, tissues, and nerves that serves as the foundation or pillar of the human body. That’s literally and figuratively 33 bones that interlock with each other to provide structural support. But the spine is vulnerable to injuries, in the United States alone, there are 18,000 cases per year, and the average age of a person who has spinal cord injuries is 43.
The spine truly is strong. Studies say that a force greater than 3,000 newtons is required to fracture the cervical spine. But if that were true, why do New Jerseyans get spinal injuries? What are the causes and conditions that damage the spine for those in New Jersey? Specialists, like Maxim Spine in New Jersey, explain the common health conditions the spine is vulnerable to.
This is known as a slipped or ruptured disc. A herniated disc is when the inner core of a disc protrudes through the outer layer, pressing on nearby nerves. This can result in localized or radiating pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area. Poor posture, repetitive strain, and sudden trauma are common triggers. The primary treatment for a herniated disc is usually conservative and nonsurgical. A pain management specialist will advise a patient to keep a low, painless activity level for a few days or several weeks. Other treatment options range from medication and physical therapy to surgical procedures like discectomy or spinal fusion.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
DDD is a condition characterized by the gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs, the cushion-like structures between the vertebrae. As people age, these discs lose hydration and elasticity, leading to decreased flexibility, pain, and stiffness in the spine. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and history of injury contribute to the development of DDD. The treatment for degenerative disc disease can be occupational therapy, physical therapy, medication, and, in some cases, surgery. Pain management options may include joint injections next to the damaged disc.
Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing the spinal canal and compressing the spinal cord and nerves. This narrowing can be either congenital or develop over time due to conditions like arthritis or thickened ligaments. Symptoms often include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness, typically worsening with activity and improving with rest.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine and is often diagnosed during adolescence but can also develop in adulthood. This condition can cause minimal symptoms, but a severe curve of the spine can lead to pain, organ compression, and difficulty breathing. The cause of scoliosis varies and can be idiopathic or related to conditions like muscular dystrophy or congenital spine abnormalities. Treatment options include observation, bracing, or surgery, depending on the severity and progression of the curve.
Spinal fractures can occur due to trauma, osteoporosis, or underlying medical conditions that weaken the bones. Fractures may involve the vertebral body, the posterior elements, or both, leading to instability, pain, and potential nerve damage. A pain management specialist may perform conservative measures like bracing and pain management to surgical intervention, such as vertebral augmentation or spinal fusion, particularly for unstable fractures.
Osteoarthritis, commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis, affects the joints, including those in the spine. Over time, the cartilage that cushions the joints wears down, resulting in pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility. Risk factors include aging, obesity, joint injuries, and genetic predisposition. Pain management focuses on pain relief, improving joint function, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and weight management. The spine is an easy target for various health conditions that can cause discomfort, disability, and decreased quality of life. While some factors contributing to these conditions are beyond individual control, practicing a healthy lifestyle, maintaining good posture, and seeking immediate medical attention for any symptoms are important steps in reducing risk and managing spinal health effectively. Knowing common health conditions that the spine is vulnerable to creates awareness for everyone on how to manage these conditions, no matter what their age is. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and healthy habits can go a long way in promoting spinal strength and overall well-being.