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Common Orthopaedic Conditions of the Spine

Mar 16, 2015

The spine gives you the ability to stand up straight, hold up your head, shoulders, and upper body, and also the flexibility to bend and twist. When you suffer from a spinal condition, you may experience pain in all of these body parts, and daily activities can become increasingly difficult.

Learn more about the spine and the conditions that could be causing your back pain.

Anatomy of the Spine

Learning more about the various conditions of the spine could help you determine what symptoms you’re experiencing, and if you’re dealing with one of the following conditions discussed here.

The spine is made up of three segments including the cervical spine of the neck, the lumbar spine of the lower back, and the thoracic spine of the chest. It also consists of vertebrae, the spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments, intervertebral discs, and facet joints.

The vertebrae are small bones that are stacked on top of one another to protect your spinal cord. The spinal cord starts at your skull, travels down your lower back, and includes nerves that carry messages between the brain and muscles. Muscles and ligaments support the spine and keep the spinal column stable. The intervertebral discs sit between the vertebrae and provide structure to the spine, allow movement, and act as shock absorbers. The facet joints are located between the vertebrae and allow the spine to move and rotate.

Below are some of the most common conditions that affect the spine.

Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures

Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs as people age. The bones in the body become weak, thin, and are more likely to break. While osteoporosis doesn’t usually show any symptoms initially, patients often are diagnosed with the disease when they experience a bone fracture. When fractures occur as a result of osteoporosis, they occur in the spine most frequently.

If you’re experiencing back pain, especially near the waistline or lower back, you may have a spinal fracture. Be sure to see your doctor to undergo an examination and X-rays, if necessary.

Spinal Stenosis

As people age, natural wear and tear can cause the spine to degenerate and narrow. This narrowing limits the amount of space between the bones and compresses the spinal cord and nerve roots. With stenosis, a patient may experience pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Other symptoms include back pain, burning in the buttocks or legs, and tingling in the legs.

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint is below the lumbar spine and above the tailbone. This joint is covered in cartilage which can wear away due to a medical condition or the wear and tear of normal physical activity. When this happens, the bones rub against one another causing pain and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Dysfunction in the sacroiliac joint causes pain down the spine and leg. It may be hard for doctors to diagnose sacroiliac joint dysfunction because these symptoms are similar to other issues like a disc herniation. For this reason, a physical examination to eliminate other causes could be effective.

These orthopaedic conditions of the spine are common to many people. If you are experiencing back pain, contact your doctor for an evaluation to reduce the risk of injuring yourself even further.

For more information on spine and back surgery, download our e-book, The Patient’s Manual to Spine and Back Surgery.