Degenerative Spine conditions can arise from a variety of factors that can compound upon one another or act as a singular source of disease and deterioration. As a pivotal part of human anatomy and function, the spine plays a critical role within our overall stability, posture, flexibility and nerve function. With consistent strain placed on the spine, degeneration can occur and with it, comes a host of potential complications.
Degenerative Spine conditions include:
- Bacterial and viral infections
- Tumorous growths
- Congenital defects
- Muscle strains
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated discs
- Arthritic disease
- Normal aging
As with most degenerative conditions, most people are susceptible to develop a degree of degeneration or a disease as they age. Certain lifestyle factors such as poor posture, lack of regular activity and stretching, poor diet and regular exposure to hazard, can elevate the likelihood of the development of a degenerative spine.
General deterioration of the spine is to be expected as we age. Ligaments will not be as resilient, soft tissue will loosen and bones will become more brittle. This can leave the spine more susceptible to injury or malfunction. Other sources of spine degeneration can include spine pressure as a result of a tumor, infection, bone spur or fracture, disease, ruptured discs and cartilage damage.
Symptoms of a degenerative spine can vary from patient to patient and condition to condition. However, in line with the function and location of the spine, patients with a degenerative spine condition will likely experience:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Leg pain
- A numb or tingling sensation in the extremities that radiates from the back
- Loss of flexibility in the back
- Progressive weakness
The clinical manifestation of degenerative spine disease varies between patients with different people often presenting different symptoms. Some common symptoms are lumbar pain, radiating pain in the extremities, cervical discomfort, and loss of mobility. Degenerative spine disease can turn particularly painful if the deterioration of the vertebral discs causes a compression of the spinal column and its associated nerve roots.
Due to the severity of spine injuries and importance of proper spine function, diagnosing Degenerative Spine disease is a critical task. Patients should be carefully and completely examined during an initial consultation with the surgical team. This meeting will include a discussion of medical history and current symptoms. The doctor will perform a physical evaluation and will very likely order diagnostics scans (MRI, X-ray, Ct scan) to be run. This will provide the surgeon with a complete understanding of the severity, location and type of spine injury that the patient has and will inform the treatment approach that is taken.
Thankfully, there are surgical and non-surgical methods of treatment for most of the degenerative conditions that affect the spine’s health and function. Deciding between the many available options will come down to a careful analysis of all the patient such as the age, physical state, and the extent of the degeneration.
Patients will first undergo nonsurgical treatment option. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Regular rehabilitative physical therapy
If emergency surgery is apparent, patients should head to the ER immediately. If patients are unable to achieve improvement to their spine health through a conservative treatment approach, there are multiple surgical treatments that should provide meaningful relief from spine degeneration. While surgery comes with the potential for risk, surgeons will only perform a surgical treatment that has a high degree of success, especially in terms of benefits over risks. For spine degeneration, surgeons will suggest these procedures:
- Spine decompression
- Spinal fusion
Surgeons will remove any damaged or compromised tissue that is causing your spine injuries. This alone may relieve pressure and improve your symptoms, or surgeons can insert supportive implants to protect the spine and ensure proper alignment.