Common Conditions Treated
People often live unnecessarily with spinal disorders for decades. If you have experienced an injury or disorder affecting your spine, you know the effect it can have on your daily life.
At Crystal Clinic, our board-certified, fellowship-trained spine physicians treat a wide range of both common and complex spine problems. The most frequently seen conditions are described below.
Degenerative Disc Disease
As we age, the rubbery discs that act like shock absorbers between the bones of our spine begin to shrink. In some cases, these discs collapse entirely and cause the joints in the vertebrae to rub against each other, resulting in pain and stiffness. When this pain cannot be attributed to another problem, it is considered to be degenerative disc disease. Pain is the hallmark symptom of this condition. It can range from nagging to severe and disabling; affect the low back, buttocks, and thighs; and worsens when sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting. In addition to exercises that strengthen the back, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, and heat and cold therapy can be helpful. When those conservative treatments do not work, surgery may be considered.
Low Back Pain
Low back pain can range from dull, annoying pain, to severe, persistent disabling pain. The cause of low back pain may be hard to determine, but can often be due to overuse, a strenuous activity, improper use, injury, a tumor, or poor muscle tone in the back. Treatments such as activity modification, medication, and physical therapy can be effective.
Pinched Nerve (Radiculopathy)
Radiculopathy, which is a pinched nerve in the spine, can cause discomfort, numbness, and weakness in the buttock and leg. It can affect any part of the spine, but is most common in the lower back (lumbar radiculopathy) and in the neck (cervical radiculopathy). Radiculopathy may develop as the result of an injury or other conditions such as a herniated disc, bone spurs, or degenerative disc disease. It may also occur for no apparent reason. Depending on where it’s located, symptoms can include radiating pain in the neck, shoulder, upper back or arm; weakness or numbness on one side; sharp pain starting in the back and extending to the foot; and tingling in the back or leg. Surgery is usually unnecessary for this condition as it can be effectively treated with non-steroidal drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen; steroid injections; and physical therapy.
Spinal stenosis is a common condition that affects thousands of older Americans. As we age, the spinal canal narrows, which puts pressure on nerves and causes pain, numbness, and weakness.
Stenosis is caused by wear and tear changes that happen to everyone over time. Those who develop symptoms generally started life with a smaller than average spinal canal (yet one more thing to blame on our parents). As the joints in the back wear out, they get bigger and grow down into the space for the nerves, causing pressure. In addition, as the discs lose cushioning ability, they flatten down and further narrow the spinal canal.
One of the initial symptoms that many notice is the decreased ability to stand or walk. Otherwise, patients may describe their symptoms differently. Some say they experience pain in their back or legs, they may feel like their legs are dead, tired, or heavy when they try to do too much. Another tell-tale sign is having to lean on a shopping cart to get through a store and the need to sit down frequently.
We prefer to start with the most conservative treatment possible before exploring surgical options. Initially, we recommend activity modification, sitting when you need to, and using devices like shopping carts to help you be more mobile. Patients should also keep their weight under control, get regular exercise, and if diabetic, carefully control their sugars. Although walking may be difficult, most patients do fine riding a bike or doing pool exercises.
Spondylosis refers to age-related wear and tear that affects the spinal disks in your neck as we get older. Most people do not experience any specific symptoms. Others report pain and stiffness in the neck. Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms and is focused on pain relief. Oftentimes, over-the-counter pain relievers are effective, but when they’re not, your doctor may suggest prescription corticosteroids or muscle relaxants, or physical therapy. If those fail, surgery may be in order.