Types of spine-related bone injuries

SPONDYLOSIS and SPONDYLOLISTHESIS

Spondylosis refers to degeneration of the spine. The term can be used to describe degeneration in the neck, middle and lower back. Most often, the term spondylosis is used to describe osteoarthritis of the spine, but it is also commonly used to describe any manner of spinal degeneration (Ulrich, Jr., MD, 2012).

Symptoms and conditions include:

  • Pain from facet joint osteoarthritis, causing pain during times of high activity or after extended inactivity.
  • Spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal, which is creating leg pain when the patient walks.
  • The pain could be caused by degenerative disc disease, in which a degenerated disc that becomes dehydrated and loses some of its function. The degenerated disc can cause low back pain or neck pain, and possibly leg pain or arm pain.

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one bone in your back slides forward over the bone below it. It most often occurs in the lower spine. In some cases, this may lead to your spinal cord or nerve roots being squeezed. This can cause back pain and numbness or weakness in one or both legs. In rare cases, it can also lead to losing control over your bladder or bowels. See a doctor right away if you begin losing bladder or bowel control.

Sometimes when a vertebra slips out of place, you may have no symptoms at all or no symptoms until years later. Then, you may have pain in your low back or buttock. Muscles in your leg may feel tight or weak. You may even limp.

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EMERGENCY RESPONSE

At first evaluation, it may be difficult to assess the extent of injuries to the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine.

At the accident scene, first check vital signs, including the patient’s consciousness, ability to breathe, and heart rate. After these are stabilized, workers will assess obvious bleeding and limb-deforming injuries.

Before moving the patient, you must immobilize the patient in a cervical (neck) collar and backboard. The trauma team will perform a complete and thorough evaluation in the hospital emergency room.

TREATMENT

Usually, after an initial examination of your symptoms and nerve response, X-rays will be ordered that allow the provider to see the structure of the spine and measure the slippage from the spondylolisthesis. During the X-rays, you will be asked to hold certain positions while standing or lying on a table, and you will need to hold very still while pictures are taken of your spine.

Treatment for spondylosis, specifically spondylolisthesis, is not much different than for other causes of mechanical and/or compressive back pain. In some cases, surgery will be necessary. Nonsurgical methods to strengthen the back muscles can reduce the mechanical symptoms resulting from the segmental instability.

Regular check-ups and scans help to deal with spine conditions

PREVENTION

In addition to exercise and weight management through a low-fat and low-sodium diet, maintaining proper posture is one way to mitigate – or even avoid – the symptoms associated with spondylosis and spondylolisthesis. It’s not always easy to remember to practice proper posture, of course.

One of the spine’s primary functions is to support the body’s weight, and it is crucial to maintain an even distribution across the series of vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, joints and intervertebral discs so that one or more segments never have to carry more of the load than they should.

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