About the back
The back supports 33 vertebrae split among the lower (lumbar), center (thoracic), and neck (cervical) sections. Discs, which act as shock absorbers and keep the spine flexible, separate the vertebrae. The back also houses facet joints, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and the spinal cord. Many back conditions are musculoskeletal, like twists or sprains, often occurring from everyday activities.
There are also structural problems, such as a herniated disc, which can result from trauma or aging. Neurosurgeons typically treat more structural conditions, and may refer to or work with other specialists for a patient's optimal treatment.
Common spinal conditions
Degenerative disc disease
Over time, our discs begin to wear down, often causing arthritis, marked by pain and stiffness. Conservative treatment focuses on anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and sometimes steroid injections. If the condition worsens, some people are candidates for partial disc removal, disc replacement or surgical fusion.
Discs are circular, flat structures with gel-like centers. Herniation occurs when there is a weakness in the disc, which could affect the nerves and create pain, weakness and numbness. A herniated disc most often occurs in the cervical or lumbar vertebrae.
It often heals with conservative treatment, including rest, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory medications, and sometimes steroid injection. More advanced treatment is partial disc removal, cervical
or lumbar disc replacement
, or fusion.
is a disease marked by weakened bone density, it can bring on spinal compression fractures, broken bones (commonly in the wrist and hip). The fractures may be treated with fusion surgery, or the minimally invasive procedures of vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty which cements the fractures.
This condition is marked by a narrowed spinal canal which impinges on the nerves and spinal cord. Aging and other structural conditions can lead to stenosis. Symptoms include numbness, pain and weakness in the legs, feet and buttocks. Treatment includes aqua therapy, steroid injection, or surgical fusion.
Diagnostic exams for disc conditions and stenosis are X-ray, MRI and/or CT