The human spine is a remarkable and complex piece of human anatomy, combining irregular bones, flexible ligaments, large muscle groups and extremely sensitive nerves.
As with any bodily structure this complicated, the spine is susceptible to a wide range of painful ailments.
Though pain originates within the spinal column, it will often radiate away from the back into extremities making the issue incredibly debilitating.
Common Sources of Spinal Pain
Sciatica is a type of radiculopathy that affects the sciatic nerve where it leaves the lower back in the region known as the lumbar spine, which is why it's sometimes referred to as lumbar radiculopathy. The sciatic nerve travels down each leg, and when the nerve is compressed or irritated where it leaves the spine, it can send pain sensations, as well as sensations of numbness and weakness, all the way down the length of the nerve through the buttocks and legs. Sciatica is most commonly caused by herniated discs, but spine diseases and trauma can also cause it to occur. It can occur on one or both sides at the same time.
DISC HERNIATION (PROTRUSION, EXTRUSION)
A herniated disc is an issue in the cushioning between your vertebrae. This disc consists of a soft inner tissue (Nucleus) surrounded by a more rigid outer tissue (Annulus). Disc herniation occurs when the softer tissue pushes through cracks in the more rigid tissue. Though many people never experience pain, the disc can compress nerves within your spine leading to pain, numbness and weakness in extremities.
DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
Degenerative Disc Disease is the term used to describe the pain, numbness and weakness originating from a degenerating disc in the spine. Though many people are alarmed when they hear the term, it is not actually a disease and certainly does not imply that pain will continue to worsen with age.
FACET JOINT ARTHROPATHY
Facet joint Arthropathy (Facet Joint Osteoarthritis) is the disintegration of cartilage in Facet Joints and a form of arthritis. This is a truly degenerative condition that can worsen with time.
SPINAL STENOSIS (CENTRAL, FORAMINAL)
Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the channel in spinal bones which the nerves and spinal cord run through. There are two forms of Spinal Stenosis, Foraminal and Central.
Foraminal Stenosis is caused by enlarging of a joint in the spinal canal and is usually cause by a single nerve on one side of the spine. The condition typically gets worse, with pain increasing over time. This form of stenosis is most common in the neck, but can also take place in the lumber region of the spine.
Central Stenosis takes place in the central canal which protects the spinal cord. This condition makes compression of the spinal cord more likely and generally occurs as part of the body’s normal degeneration process.
Spinal Pain Treatment
Though spinal pain may radiate to extremities, the best way to cure or manage the pain is at the source. Most methods of spinal pain management begin with epidural injections into or near the spine. This injection may be a steroid, pain reliever or mild anesthetic. These injections are frequently done with the aid of x-rays in order to ensure proper alignment and position within the spine—so the injection goes where it is needed most. The epidural injection may also help with additional forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, by improving range of motion in addition to reduction of pain. In order to properly diagnose and pinpoint the source of your spinal pain, the first step in your treatment is a thorough examination and evaluation where diagnostic imaging such as CT Scans may be used.