The term “intervertebral” means between the vertebrae of the spine. Structure of intervertebral space includes ligament, cartilage, and bone. Any injury or sprain caused to any part of this structure is called “Intervertebral Sprain or Injury”. As you know, there are many intervertebral joints in the spine of a human body, but upper back and neck joints are involved in most of the activities. So, injuries to these joints are most common.
Cervical injuries are more frequently seen in athletes who are prone to strain and sprain muscles of the neck and soft tissue contusion.
When a muscle or a tendon is stretched beyond its strength (permissible limit), then the muscle gets injured. This injury which occurred because of overloading is called a strain. Usually cervical muscles like SCM (sternocleidomastoid), levator scapulae, trapezius, scalenes, erector spinae, and rhomboids are strained at the time of the injury.
Any damage that occurs to the capsular structure and ligaments which connects vertebrae and cervical facet joints is called a sprain. Visually it is not possible to differentiate sprain and strain injury. This is because these two injuries usually occur together.
Causes of Intervertebral Sprain
Anatomically, vertebrae are connected by many ligaments surrounding it and run between the bodies of the transverse and spinal processes and ligaments. Sticky out bits at the back and sides are called spinal processes.
Tearing or stretching of the ligament is called sprain. Sprain usually occurs due to sudden and repetitive movement of the joint in which ligament overstretches. Ligaments do not have stretching property because they are designed in such a way that they can only support and stabilize the joint. It can be torn by any strong impact or force.
When the back receives any intolerable force or sudden impact due to spontaneous movement then intervertebral sprain occurs. Severity of the sprain is more in case of falling and automobile accidents. Severity of the sprain is less when it occurs as a result of sudden bending or twisting, especially in movements related to bending to pickup any object.
Intervertebral Sprain – Treatment Modalities
- In minor injuries, ligament sprains will resolve on its own over a span of 2 to 4 weeks with initial conservative treatment.
- RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment is suggested initially to get rid of pain symptoms and swelling.
- Any movement related to spine either sudden or partial movement, should be avoided. Especially, if there is inflammation, give sufficient rest to the back.
- Consult the doctor immediately if pain and swelling persists. Anti-inflammatory medications are usually recommended by the doctor.
- In case of muscle spasms, sports massage will help in alleviating the symptoms.
- In any case, if there is pain on neural signs (numbness or tingling) or deep breathing, then consult the doctor immediately and seek medical intervention.
A number of epidemiologic studies have been done in order to identify risk patterns of the injury which are linked with particular sports. Most of the times, athletes do not report minor or tolerable sports injuries assuming that they will resolve on its own. Such conditions are limiting further studies that are to be conducted to find an accurate solution, treatment pattern, and prevention of cervical spine injuries. Maintaining good flexibility and strength of the cervical muscles through conditioning is the mainstay of treatment and prevention of cervical spine injuries.
Role Of Physiotherapist In The Treatment Of Intervertebral Sprain?
In most of the sports injury cases, once pain and inflammation subsides, regaining of strength and going back to normal daily activities is very important. Physiotherapist would suggest strengthening and mobilization exercises. If required, in severe cases, physiotherapist would formulate a rehab program and suggests the patient to follow this program which will help in regaining lost strength.
It is always suggested to seek the professional medical advice before following any treatment regimen.