Back and spinal disorders

Back pain can have a big effect on a person’s quality of life, even if the pain is only minor. There are a number of different causes of back pain and it can be hard to treat the pain successfully without able to identify the cause. Some of the leading causes of back pain include:

Poor Posture

Bad posture leads to friction and tension in unusual areas of the body. Although the posture may start to feel natural over time, it will slowly start to put excess strain on this area of the body. This will start to cause pain and discomfort over time. Working to improve bad posture can help to relieve the strain that is being placed on the back.

Strain or Sprain

Overuse or misuse can cause a minor strain or sprain injury to the back. These injuries can normally be treated with heat and cold packs, and over the counter medication. Most strains and sprains will clear up within a few weeks.

Whiplash

Every year, thousands of people in the United Kingdom suffer from whiplash injuries. It is one of the most common injuries that are sustained in minor road traffic accidents but people sustain whiplash in numerous different ways. Although many people only suffer minor discomfort from whiplash, the injuries can be life changing. Diagnosing and treating whiplash correctly can help to reduce the effects of the injury.

Slipped or Prolapsed Disc

The bones in the spine are connected by discs of cartilage. If one of these discs moves out of its natural position, it can start to press onto the nerves. The patient may feel pain in a few different areas of their body, depending on which nerves the disc is pressing on. Physiotherapy and light exercise are the best treatments for a slipped disc. In extreme cases, surgical options may be considered as a form of treatment.

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

Angkylosing Spondylitis is an illness where swelling occurs in the spine and other areas of the body. Patients may experience back pain, swelling around the joints and tendons, and fatigue. Without treatment, AS can get steadily worse over time.

Doctors believe that AS is caused by a genetic defect and there is no known cure. However, it may be possible to relieve the symptoms of angkylosing spondylitis using a treatment management plan. Physiotherapy and special exercises are most effective for treating light symptoms. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and anti-tumour necrosis factor treatments are best for those who are experiencing higher levels of pain and discomfort.

Sciatica

Sciatica is the name given to the compression or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the top of the pelvis down to the feet. If the nerve is compressed or irritated in any way, patients may start to experience pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the legs. The back pain that is associated with sciatica is normally centered around the lower back and upper buttocks. The symptoms may be worsened by seemingly innocuous activities such as sitting, sneezing and coughing.

Physiotherapy is often recommended for sciatica as it can help to manipulate the spine to remove the initial source of the compression or irritation. NSAIDs also help to reduce swelling that may be causing the sciatica. Maintaining good posture and enjoying a healthy exercise routine (including warm-up stretches) can help to prevent sciatica from developing.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis refers to a bone in the back which has slipped out of position. It occurs when a vertebra in the lower, middle or upper section of the spine slips out of its natural position. The condition can be caused by trauma, genetic conditions, overuse or a birth defect.

Some people who have Spondylolisthesis do not actually show any symptoms at all and it is possible to lead a perfectly normal life as a sufferer. However, Spondylolisthesis can also cause severe symptoms. Some sufferers may require surgery to correct the problem, although this is normally only chosen as a last resort.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Spinal Muscular Atrophy is also known as autosomal recessive proximal spinal muscular atrophy. This is a rare neuromuscular disorder which effects the motor neurons and results in wasting away of the muscles. In layman’s terms, this disease directly affects the nervous system in the areas that control voluntary muscle movement. This generally leads to premature death for the sufferer.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine which often progresses from childhood disease but can also occur due to a degeneration of various spinal elements.

Arachnoiditis

Arachnoiditis is caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid lining surrounding the brain and spinal column and causes the sufferer to feel severe stinging, burning pain and neurological problems. Often the patient feels like they have insects crawling on them, electric shock sensations, muscle cramps and spasms and uncontrollable twitching.

Causa equina syndrome

Causa equina syndrome is less common than most other spinal diseases and can be quite severe. Compression of the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine can cause bladder and bowel dysfunction, loss of feeling or altered feeling in the groin, anal area, inner thighs and buttocks, pain and altered sensation in the legs and feet, sexual dysfunction and pain, numbness and tingling in the legs as well as difficulty standing and walking.

Chiari Malformation

Chiari Malformation is caused when some of your brain tissue is pushed into the spinal column due to a malformed skull or a too small skull. There are a number of different types of Chiari Malformation and it generally presents symptoms of nerve problems, weakness, dizziness, balance problems, headaches, vision issues, back pain and trouble swallowing.

Degenerative Disc disease

Degenerative Disc disease involves the intervertebral discs which lose their cushioning ability as you age. The discs in your spine work as shock absorbers and are generally flexible and elastic. As you get older they can become inflexible and rigid. This disease causes chronic pain and restriction to movement.

Kyphosis

Kyphosis is abnormal spine curvature causing a slouched or humpback posture. This condition causes pain, stiffness and muscle fatigue and even chest pain and breathing difficulty. Postural Kyphosis is caused from poor posture and can be corrected by physical therapy.

Scheuermanns Kyphosis is caused by the vertebrae wedging and can also lead to scoliosis. Less severe forms can be treated by using a brace or physical therapy whereas more severe forms may require surgery.

Congenital kyphosis is relatively rare and is caused by abnormal foetal spine development. Surgery is generally recommended as soon as possible to prevent the condition from worsening.

Fixed Sagittal Imbalance

Fixed Sagittal Imbalance is a deformity in which the spine becomes fixed, causing a person not to be able to stand up straight. This deformity can occur as a result of osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, ankylosing spondylitis and lumbar fusion. This is normally treatable with surgery only.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder which generally affects muscles. Fibromyalgia can be related to injury, stress, abnormal endocrine secretion, emotional distress, abnormal blood flow and muscle tissue abnormalities but the exact causes are still unknown. Current treatment is symptomatic with analgesics, depression medication and muscle relaxants.

Vertebral Osteomyelitis

Vertebral osteomyelitis is a rare spinal infection caused by bacteria infecting the spinal bones, This disease can be acute or chronic. Symptoms can include severe back pain, inflammation, sweating, high fevers, weakness, and even paralysis. This is generally treated with antibiotics and analgesics but in severe cases surgery may be required to remove the infection as well as the infected bone and includes reconstruction of the spine.

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect that involves the incomplete development of the spine and brain. This is a birth defect and can be mild to severe. There is unfortunately no cure at this point for this disease. A diet high in folic acid can help prevent this type of defect during pregnancy.

Cancer

In rare cases, back pain can be a sign of cancer. Depending on the location of the pain, it could be a symptom of various different forms of the disease. Your doctor will most likely want to assess whether you have any other symptoms before they consider cancer. If there are other symptoms present, the doctor may wish to carry out testing to check for cancer.

Viruses

In very rare circumstances, back pain may be caused by a virus. It can be hard to diagnose the virus without the existence of other symptoms. Misdiagnosis can lead to worsening symptoms.

There are a number of other injuries and illnesses that can affect the spine and cause severe pain and discomfort. Treatments vary greatly from one person to the next and are not only disease and injury dependent.

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