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Spine Health: What You Need to Know

Spine Conditions

October 16th is World Spine Day. World Spine Day is part of Bone and Joint Decade Action Week. The day was formally launched by the World Federation of Chiropractic in 2012, with the goal to raise awareness about spinal health and spine disorders.

World Spine Day will be celebrated on every continent, with health professionals, exercise and rehabilitation experts, public health advocates, schoolchildren and patients all taking part.

If you’ve ever experienced back pain before, you know how much it hurts. Often the problem is muscular, but occasionally the problem is directly related to the spine.

On World Spine Day, we're discussing spine health, what types of problems can develop, risk factors for spinal conditions along with their diagnosis and treatment. Spine Health is important to maintaining good mobility throughout old age. Learn what you can do to prevent these common problems.

Common Types of Spinal Conditions

Spinal Conditions

Degenerative spine and disc conditions:

Other spine conditions and disorders can include:

This link to the website Spine Universe gives you a complete list of all the various spinal conditions and information about them.

Causes of Spine Disorders

Spine disorders have a wide variety of causes depending on the particular condition. For some conditions, the causes are unknown. Common causes include:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth
  • Accidents or falls
  • Cancer
  • Congenital disorders (present since birth)
  • Degenerative wear and tear that comes with ageing
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Inherited disorders
  • Injuries ranging from minor to traumatic

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Risk Factors for Spine Disorders

Factors that can increase the risk of developing a spine disorder include:

  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Improper lifting techniques
  • Nutrition and lifestyle habits such as sedentary lifestyle, low calcium intake, or smoking
  • Other conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid disease
  • Overuse from exercise or occupational movement
  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive strenuous activities

Symptoms of Spine Disorders

Signs and symptoms depend on the specific spine disorder and often affect other parts of the body, depending on the area of the spine or spinal cord that is affected. Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormally rounded shoulders or back
  • Back or neck pain that can be sharp and stabbing, dull and aching, or burning
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain radiating in the arms or legs
  • Stiffness or tightness
  • Uneven appearance, such as one shoulder or hip being higher than the other
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms or legs
back pain and spinal conditions

Diagnosis of Spine Disorders

Spine experts will conduct a thorough evaluation, including:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of personal and family medical history
  • Discussion of symptoms and risk factors
  • Neurological exam, if a nerve injury or disorder is suspected

Depending on each patient’s individual case, your doctors might recommend one or more tests, such as:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnet to produce detailed images of the spine. MRI is useful in detecting injuries and disorders in soft tissue such as muscles, ligaments, tendons, spinal cord, and nerves.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT uses specialized X-rays with or without a contrast agent to produce cross-sectional, 3D images of the spine. CT provides images that are more detailed than plain X-rays for evaluating bone injuries or disorders.
  • X-ray: X-rays of the neck or different areas of the back to check for bone problems such as fractures, other injuries, and chronic disorders.
  • Biopsy: If cancer is suspected, neurosurgeons can take a small tissue sample for analysis under a microscope.
  • Electromyography (EMG): Electrodiagnostic examinations measure electrical activity generated by muscles and nerves. They generally involve seeing how different parts of the body react to stimuli.

Treatment for Spine Disorders

Spine specialists often use one or more treatments, depending on the specific condition or injury. Treatments offered include:

  • Back bracing
  • Cancer treatment such as surgery to remove tumors, radiation therapy, radiosurgery, and chemotherapy
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Ice or heat therapy for injuries
  • Injections, such as corticosteroids or nerve blocks, for pain
  • Massage for relief of back pain
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatories, pain relievers, or muscle relaxers
  • Rehabilitation using physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the back and abdominal muscles
  • Surgery to replace discs, fuse (connect) vertebrae, open up the spinal canal, or repair nerves
healthy spine

Lifestyle Is Important

It’s important to pay attention to your lifestyle when it comes to spine problems. If you are overweight, it puts added pressure on your spine and can cause issues like arthritis to become even more painful. Exercise on a regular basis and do spine strengthening moves such as stretches and yoga.

Be aware of your surroundings in order to avoid accidents and falls. Use proper safety equipment at all times, especially if you are working at heights such as roofs or trees.

Lift properly, using your legs and not your back. Even a minor change in your lifting habits will help to protect you. Engage your core muscles and using lifting straps for heavier items.

Quitting smoking is always good as it helps to increase blood circulation which is always good for the body including the spine.

Conclusion

A healthy spine is a happy spine. If you are experiencing problems with your back, see your Family Physician first to rule out any serious problems. Massage or Chiropractic care may be the first step to healing, or you may need to see a specialist. The important thing is to seek treatment early so you have the best chance of gaining full recovery.


Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com.  She also writes for The Mighty,  PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC.  She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie. 

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1 thought on “Spine Health: What You Need to Know

  1. When I go to yoga class every week and stretch in between, I have fewer back problems.

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