Back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide with about 80% of people expected to deal with back pain at some point in their lives. While some people may struggle with back pain for just a few days 一 perhaps as a muscle heals from being overworked at the gym 一 the reality is that millions of people struggle with chronic back pain, e.g., pain that lingers for more than three months.
Neck pain is another common complaint, affecting about 33% of people annually. As with back pain, neck pain also significantly impacts your quality of life.
Because spine issues can contribute to neck and back pain, it’s important to spot the signs of a spine issue so you can get the care you need to treat chronic neck or back pain.
Below, our team of providers here at International Spine, Pain & Performance Center highlights the most common spine issues.
Common spine issues
The best way to treat back pain is to target the underlying cause of your back pain. Some of the most common spine issues are:
Herniated discs can happen in any part of your spine: your cervical spine (neck), your thoracic spine (upper back), and your lumbar spine (lower back). When a disc herniates, the gel-like center leaks through the outer shell of your disc. When this gel-like material presses on your nerves, it causes pain.
Regardless of which portion of your spine is affected, herniated discs cause mild to severe pain, depending on the severity of the herniation and how much your nerves are compressed.
Herniated discs 一 also referred to as bulging discs or slipped discs 一 respond well to physical therapy, stretching, warm compresses, pain medication, and in rare cases, surgery.
You might suspect herniated disc is the source of your spine issues if your pain is accompanied by tingling, burning sensations, weakness, or loss of movement.
Spinal stenosis is another common spine issue. About 5 out of every 1000 people over the age of 50 have the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis happens when your spinal canal becomes narrower and compresses your nerves. Depending on which part of your spinal canal becomes narrower, you might experience any of the following:
- Numbness or tingling in your upper limbs (e.g., hands or arms)
- Numbness or tingling in your lower limbs (e.g., feet or legs )
- Muscle weakness
- Balance issues
- Neck pain
In severe cases, spinal stenosis can also cause urinary urgency and fecal incontinence. We treat spinal stenosis with physical therapy, pain medication, steroid injections, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, stem cell therapy, and surgery.
Just like arthritis can develop in your knee, hip, or shoulders, it can also impact any of the joints in your spine. Common signs of arthritis in your spine include grinding sensations, stiffness, swelling over the affected joints, and pain.
Spinal arthritis treatment may include exercises and stretches, pain medications, and steroid injections. If conservative treatments don’t provide relief, surgery is also an option.
Whiplash is a condition that primarily affects your cervical spine. Although car accidents are a common cause of whiplash, any jarring motion, such as being tackled, can cause whiplash. In addition to neck pain, whiplash also contributes to headaches, muscle pain, brain fog, confusion, and mood changes.
Which spine condition is causing your symptoms?
This list is just a small sample of potential spine issues, but as orthopedic specialists, we excel at diagnosing and treating spinal conditions. Before our team can create the right treatment plan for your spine issues, it’s crucial to first identify the source of your pain. To do this, we review your symptoms and medical history and analyze any diagnostic imaging tests. We may order x-rays, MRIs, or even a CT to help diagnose the source of your pain.
Once we’ve determined the source of your pain, we can recommend the appropriate treatment, whether that’s physical therapy, interventional pain management, or surgery.
To get started, schedule an appointment in our Arlington, Virginia, or Washington D.C office and explore the treatments that are right for you.