The human spinal cord or the backbone is a tube-like structure consisting of numerous discs known as vertebrae stacked on top of each other. The vertebrae enable you to stand, bend, and move freely. They also support the spine and protects it against external pressure. The spine also consists of millions of nerves that run from the base of the brain to the lowest point of the spine. These nerves carry information from the brain to the backbone and other parts of the body.
Spinal disorders are conditions that alter the structure of the spine, damages the vertebrae, nerves, and surrounding tissues, often causing pain and restricted movement. Fortunately, most spinal cord conditions are usually mild and resolve without any complex treatment. However, there are more complex conditions that can be life-threatening, especially if left untreated for a long time.
The most common spinal disorders include,
• Spinal stenosis
• spinal tumors
• Vertebral fractures
• Degenerative disc disease.
Other types of spinal conditions and diseases include osteoporosis, Scheuermann’s kyphosis, spinal cord cancer, scoliosis, and chronic neck and back pain.
Causes and risk factors
There are numerous causes of spinal disorders, depending on specific conditions. Some conditions have no known causes. However, most spinal disorders are generally caused by accidental falls, infections, congenital disorders, genetic disorders, trauma from injuries, inflammation, spinal degeneration, abnormalities like hematoma, and other health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Anyone can develop a spinal disorder. However, factors that increase the risk of developing a spinal disorder include being overweight and obese, poor posture, poor living habits, smoking, repetitive and improper lifting techniques, strenuous exercise. People living with underlying conditions like osteoarthritis, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are at a higher risk of developing a spinal disorder.
Signs and symptoms of spinal disorders
Signs and symptoms are specific to the type of disorder and the part of the spine affected. But, typical symptoms of spinal disorders encompass general body stiffness, sharp pain in the back and neck region, nausea and vomiting, bowel problems, loss of sensation, weakness and numbed limbs, uncontrolled muscle spasms, and irregular appearance.
How are spinal disorders treated?
Treatment plans vary depending on the type, location, and severity of the disorder. Luckily most spinal cord disorders are treated using simple and short-term methods. However, more serious conditions may demand complex and long-term treatment plans. Common treatment plans for spinal cord disorders include rehabilitation through physical and occupational therapy and back bracing. Some spinal disorders may require surgical procedures to replace discs, fuse vertebrae, and repair nerves. Different types of medications are also used to help treat and manage symptoms like pain, muscle spasticity, and bowel dysfunctions.
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