(ĐTĐ) - The word “spondylosis” means a stiffening or fixation of the vertebrae in the back and neck due to a disease process. Spondylosis is the degenerative changes such as degenerating discs and bone spurs. Quite often, these changes are called osteoarthritis. Spondylosis can occur anywhere on the spine: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper/mid back), and lumbar (low back). However, the most common is cervical and lumbar.
 

Individuals with thoracic spondylosis rarely experience symptoms. Lumbosacral spondylosis occurs in both the lumbar and the sacral areas of the spine. The sacral area is just below the lumbar spine, between the buttocks. Those who are experiencing spondylosis in multiple areas will be diagnosed with multilevel spondylosis.

Causes and Risk Factors for Spondylosis

Spondylosis is a phenomenon among the aging population. As we age, bones and ligaments in the spine wear down, which leads to bone spurs, known as osteoarthritis. Additionally, the intervertebral discs weaken and degenerate, leading to bulging and herniated discs.

Symptoms of spondylosis are typically reported first between the ages of 20 and 50. According to x-ray studies, over 80 percent of people over 40 have evidence of spondylosis. The rate of spondylosis occurrence is related in part to a genetic predisposition and history of injuries.

Signs and Symptoms of Spondylosis

Many individuals who have x-ray evidence of spondylosis do not have any symptoms at all. Believe it or not, spondylosis in the lower back – or lumbar spondylosis occurs in 27 to 37 percent of people without any symptoms ever being present. Spondylosis does cause back and neck pain in some individuals because of pinched nerves. This is caused by bone spurs on the facet joints or bulging discs, which causes the holes where nerve roots exit the spinal canal to narrow.

Even if a bulging disc isn’t large enough to cause a pinched nerve, it can cause local inflammation and cause the nerves in the spine to become sensitive- which increases pain. Additionally, herniated discs can cause the ligaments in the spine to be pushed on, which can cause pain. Chronic pain can result if new nerves and blood vessels are caused to grow from this pressure. Due to the pain, the spine may splint itself, which will cause regional tenderness, trigger points, and muscle spasms.

Findings, such as decreased disc space, calcium deposits, and bone spur formation on the upper or lower portions of the vertebrae, which are characteristic of spondylosis can be seen with x-rays.

Symptoms of spondylosis include the following local pain in the area of the spondylosis (typically the back or neck). If you’re experiencing a pinched nerve due to a herniated disc, you could have pain shooting into your limbs. Back pain that can be attributed to a bulging disk gets worse with long periods of standing, sitting, or bending forward and typically is helped by frequently changing positions and short periods of walking.

Pain in the back because of osteoarthritis typically gets worse with standing or walking and can be relieved by bending forward. If you have a pinched nerve, you may experience tingling and numbness, and if the nerve is severely pinched, you could experience weakness of the affected extremity.

If you have a herniated disc pushing on your spinal cord can cause injury to the spine, called myelopathy. Myelopathy symptoms include weakness, numbness, and tingling. For example, if you have a herniated disc in your cervical spine that is large enough to exert pressure on the spine, it could cause weakness, tingling, and numbness in your arms and your legs.

When Should You Seek Treatment for Spondylosis?

Due to the fact that the diagnosis of spondylosis is made through MRI, CT, or plain film x-ray, individuals who have this diagnosis have already sought help from their physician. Following are some reasons for re-evaluation from your physician:

  • Pain isn’t being managed with the currently prescribed treatments
  • Acute nerve dysfunction development, such as limb weakness
  • Loss of control of your bowels or bladder when you have acute neck or back pain can point to a more serious dysfunction of the nerves and should immediately be evaluated at the ER.
  • Groin numbness, known as “saddle anesthesia”- could be indicative of a more serious nerve dysfunction and should be evaluated immediately at the ER.
  • Back or neck pain causes weight loss or a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Diagnosis of Spondylosis

Your physician can diagnose you with spondylosis through the use of MRI, CT, or plain film x-rays. The x-rays will show any bone spurs on the vertebrae, thickening of the joints that connect the vertebrae to each other, and any narrowing of the spaces in between the vertebrae. CT scans can get a better visualization of the spine and therefore can find whether or not there is a narrowing of the spinal canal. MRI scans can be quite expensive, however, they do show the greatest detail of the spine and can visualize- if present- the degree of disc herniation. Additionally, an MRI is able to visualize the vertebrae, facet joints, nerves, and ligaments in the spine and therefore can be used to diagnose a pinched nerve.

Treatment of Spondylosis

Currently, due to the degenerative nature of the process of spondylosis, there is no treatment available to reverse it. Treatments of spondylosis target the pain in the neck and back caused by spondylosis. Therefore, treatment is very similar to that of typically back and neck pain treatments. Treatments available for this include: self-care, medication, physical therapy/exercise, chiropractic/acupuncture, injections, and even surgery.

Following Up

After a course of treatment, your physician will most likely want to follow up with you to see how successful the treatment is/has been. Typically, it is unnecessary for any follow-up imaging such as MRI, CT, or x-ray. However, there is an exception- any change in symptoms that could affect the therapy such as new onset pain down one arm or new onset sciatica.

Source Chronicbodypain.net

 

Common causes of low back pain (lumbar backache) include lumbar strain, nerve irritation, lumbar radiculopathy, bony encroachment, and conditions of the bone and joints. Each of these is reviewed below.

  1. Lumbar strain (acute, chronic) A lumbar strain is a stretch injury to the ligaments, tendons, and/or muscles of the low back. The stretching incident results in microscopic tears of varying degrees in these tissues. Lumbar strain is considered one of the most common causes of low back pain. The injury can occur because of overuse, improper use, or trauma. Soft-tissue injury is commonly classified as "acute" if it has been present for days to weeks. If the strain lasts longer than three months, it is referred to as "chronic." Lumbar strain most often occurs in people in their 40s, but it can happen at any age. The condition is characterized by localized discomfort in the low back area with onset after an event that mechanically stressed the lumbar tissues. The severity of the injury ranges from mild to severe, depending on the degree of strain and resulting spasm of the muscles of the low back. The diagnosis of lumbar strain is based on the history of injury, the location of the pain, and exclusion of nervous system injury. Usually, X-ray testing is only helpful to exclude bone abnormalities. The treatment of lumbar strain consists of resting the back (to avoid reinjury), medications to relieve pain and muscle spasm, local heat applications, massage, and eventual (after the acute episode resolves) reconditioning exercises to strengthen the low back and abdominal muscles. Initial treatment at home might include heat application, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and avoiding reinjury and heavy lifting. Long periods of inactivity in bed are no longer recommended, as this treatment may actually slow recovery. Spinal manipulation for periods of up to one month has been found to be helpful in some patients who do not have signs of nerve irritation. Future injury is avoided by using back-protection techniques during activities and support devices as needed at home or work.
  2. Nerve irritation The nerves of the lumbar spine can be irritated by mechanical pressure (impingement) by bone or other tissues, or from disease, anywhere along their paths -- from their roots at the spinal cord to the skin surface. These conditions include lumbar disc disease (radiculopathy), bony encroachment, and inflammation of the nerves caused by a viral infection (shingles). See discussions of these conditions below.
  3. Lumbar radiculopathy Lumbar radiculopathy is nerve irritation that is caused by damage to the discs between the vertebrae. Damage to the disc occurs because of degeneration ("wear and tear") of the outer ring of the disc, traumatic injury, or both. As a result, the central softer portion of the disc can rupture (herniate) through the outer ring of the disc and abut the spinal cord or its nerves as they exit the bony spinal column. This rupture is what causes the commonly recognized "sciatica" pain of a herniated disc that shoots from the low back and buttock down the leg. Sciatica can be preceded by a history of localized low-back aching or it can follow a "popping" sensation and be accompanied by numbness and tingling. The pain commonly increases with movements at the waist and can increase with coughing or sneezing. In more severe instances, sciatica can be accompanied by incontinence of the bladder and/or bowels. The sciatica of lumbar radiculopathy typically affects only one side of the body, such as the left side or right side, and not both. Lumbar radiculopathy is suspected based on the above symptoms. Increased radiating pain when the lower extremity is lifted supports the diagnosis. Nerve testing (EMG/electromyogram and NCV/nerve conduction velocity) of the lower extremities can be used to detect nerve irritation. The actual disc herniation can be detected with imaging tests, such as CAT or MRI scanning. Treatment of lumbar radiculopathy ranges from medical management to surgery. Medical management includes patient education, medications to relieve pain and muscle spasms, cortisone injection around the spinal cord (epidural injection), physical therapy (heat, massage by a therapist, ultrasound, electrical stimulation), and rest (not strict bed rest but avoiding reinjury). With unrelenting pain, severe impairment of function, or incontinence (which can indicate spinal cord irritation), surgery may be necessary. The operation performed depends on the overall status of the spine and the age and health of the patient. Procedures include removal of the herniated disc with laminotomy (a small hole in the bone of the lumbar spine surrounding the spinal cord), laminectomy (removal of the bony wall), by needle technique (percutaneous discectomy), disc-dissolving procedures (chemonucleolysis), and others.

    Picture of herniated disc between L4 and L5
  4. Bony encroachment Any condition that results in movement or growth of the vertebrae of the lumbar spine can limit the space (encroachment) for the adjacent spinal cord and nerves. Causes of bony encroachment of the spinal nerves include foraminal narrowing (narrowing of the portal through which the spinal nerve passes from the spinal column, out of the spinal canal to the body, commonly as a result of arthritis), spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra relative to another), and spinal stenosis (compression of the nerve roots or spinal cord by bony spurs or other soft tissues in the spinal canal). Spinal-nerve compression in these conditions can lead to sciatica pain that radiates down the lower extremities. Spinal stenosis can cause lower-extremity pains that worsen with walking and are relieved by resting (mimicking the pains of poor circulation). Treatment of these afflictions varies, depending on their severity, and ranges from rest to surgical decompression by removing the bone that is compressing the nervous tissue.
  5. Bone and joint conditions Bone and joint conditions that lead to low back pain include those existing from birth (congenital), those that result from wear and tear (degenerative) or injury, and those that are due to inflammation of the joints (arthritis).
      Congenital bone conditions -- Congenital causes (existing from birth) of low back pain include scoliosis and spina bifida. Scoliosis is a sideways (lateral) curvature of the spine that can be caused when one lower extremity is shorter than the other (functional scoliosis) or because of an abnormal architecture of the spine (structural scoliosis). Children who are significantly affected by structural scoliosis may require treatment with bracing and/or surgery to the spine. Adults infrequently are treated surgically but often benefit by support bracing. Spina bifida is a birth defect in the bony vertebral arch over the spinal canal, often with absence of the spinous process. This birth defect most commonly affects the lowest lumbar vertebra and the top of the sacrum. Occasionally, there are abnormal tufts of hair on the skin of the involved area. Spina bifida can be a minor bony abnormality without symptoms. However, the condition can also be accompanied by serious nervous abnormalities of the lower extremities.

      Degenerative bone and joint conditions -- As we age, the water and protein content of the body's cartilage changes. This change results in weaker, thinner, and more fragile cartilage. Because both the discs and the joints that stack the vertebrae (facet joints) are partly composed of cartilage, these areas are subject to wear and tear over time (degenerative changes). Degeneration of the disc is called spondylosis. Spondylosis can be noted on X-rays of the spine as a narrowing of the normal "disc space" between the vertebrae. It is the deterioration of the disc tissue that predisposes the disc to herniation and localized lumbar pain ("lumbago") in older patients. Degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) of the facet joints is also a cause of localized lumbar pain that can be detected with plain X-ray testing. These causes of degenerative back pain are usually treated conservatively with intermittent heat, rest, rehabilitative exercises, and medications to relieve pain, muscle spasm, and inflammation.

      Injury to the bones and joints -- Fractures (breakage of bone) of the lumbar spine and sacrum bone most commonly affect elderly people with osteoporosis, especially those who have taken long-term cortisone medication. For these individuals, occasionally even minimal stresses on the spine (such as bending to tie shoes) can lead to bone fracture. In this setting, the vertebra can collapse (vertebral compression fracture). The fracture causes an immediate onset of severe localized pain that can radiate around the waist in a band-like fashion and is made intensely worse with body motions. This pain generally does not radiate down the lower extremities. Vertebral fractures in younger patients occur only after severe trauma, such as from motor-vehicle accidents or a convulsive seizure.

      In both younger and older patients, vertebral fractures take weeks to heal with rest and pain relievers. Compression fractures of vertebrae associated with osteoporosis can also be treated with a procedure called vertebroplasty, which can help to reduce pain. In this procedure, a balloon is inflated in the compressed vertebra, often returning some of its lost height. Subsequently, a "cement" (methymethacrylate) is injected into the balloon and remains to retain the structure and height of the body of the vertebra. Arthritis -- The spondyloarthropathies are inflammatory types of arthritis that can affect the lower back and sacroiliac joints. Examples of spondyloarthropathies include reactive arthritis (Reiter's disease), ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and the arthritis of inflammatory bowel disease. Each of these diseases can lead to low back pain and stiffness, which is typically worse in the morning. These conditions usually begin in the second and third decades of life. They are treated with medications directed toward decreasing the inflammation. Newer biologic medications have been greatly successful in both quieting the disease and stopping its progression.


 

Uncommon causes of low back pain

Uncommon causes of low back pain include Paget's disease of bone, bleeding or infection in the pelvis, infection of the cartilage and/or bone of the spine, aneurysm of the aorta, and shingles.

Paget's disease of bone

Paget's disease of the bone is a condition of unknown cause in which the bone formation is out of synchrony with normal bone remodeling. This condition results in abnormally weakened bone and deformity and can cause localized bone pain, though it often causes no symptoms. Paget's disease is more common in people over the age of 50. Heredity (genetic background) and certain unusual virus infections have been suggested as causes. Thickening of involved bony areas of the lumbar spine can cause the radiating lower extremity pain of sciatica.

Paget's disease can be diagnosed on plain X-rays. However, a bone biopsy is occasionally necessary to ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis. Bone scanning is helpful to determine the extent of the disease, which can involve more than one bone area. A blood test, alkaline phosphatase, is useful for diagnosis and monitoring response to therapy. Treatment options include aspirin, other anti-inflammatory medicines, pain medications, and medications that slow the rate of bone turnover, such as calcitonin (Calcimar, Miacalcin), etidronate (Didronel), alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), and pamidronate (Aredia).

Bleeding or infection in the pelvis

Bleeding in the pelvis is rare without significant trauma and is usually seen in patients who are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). In these patients, a rapid-onset sciatica pain can be a sign of bleeding in the back of the pelvis and abdomen that is compressing the spinal nerves as they exit to the lower extremities. Infection of the pelvis is infrequent but can be a complication of conditions such as diverticulosis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, pelvic inflammatory disease with infection of the Fallopian tubes or uterus, and even appendicitis. Pelvic infection is a serious complication of these conditions and is often associated with fever, lowering of blood pressure, and a life-threatening state.

Infection of the cartilage and/or bone of the spine

Infection of the discs (septic discitis) and bone (osteomyelitis) is extremely rare. These conditions lead to localized pain associated with fever. The bacteria found when these tissues are tested with laboratory cultures include Staphylococcus aureus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB bacteria). TB infection in the spine is called Pott's disease. These are each very serious conditions requiring long courses of antibiotics. The sacroiliac joints rarely become infected with bacteria. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can involve the sacroiliac joints and is usually transmitted in goat's milk.

Aneurysm of the aorta

In the elderly, atherosclerosis can cause weakening of the wall of the large arterial blood vessel (aorta) in the abdomen. This weakening can lead to a bulging (aneurysm) of the aorta wall. While most aneurysms cause no symptoms, some cause a pulsating low back pain. Aneurysms of certain size, especially when enlarging over time, can require surgical repair with a grafting procedure to repair the abnormal portion of the artery.

Shingles

Shingles (herpes zoster) is an acute infection of the nerves that supply sensation to the skin, generally at one or several spinal levels and on one side of the body (right or left). Patients with shingles usually have had chickenpox earlier in life. The herpes virus that causes chickenpox is believed to exist in a dormant state within the spinal nerve roots long after the chickenpox resolves. In people with shingles, this virus reactivates to cause infection along the sensory nerve, leading to nerve pain and usually an outbreak of shingles (tiny blisters on the same side of the body and at the same nerve level). The back pain in patients with shingles of the lumbar area can precede the skin rash by days. Successive crops of tiny blisters can appear for several days and clear with crusty inflammation in one to two weeks. Patients occasionally are left with a more chronic nerve pain (postherpetic neuralgia). Treatment can involve symptomatic relief with lotions, such as calamine, or medications, such as acyclovir (Zovirax) for the infection and pregabalin (Lyrica) or lidocaine (Lidoderm) patches for the pain.

Other causes of lower back pain

Other causes of low back pain include kidney problems, pregnancy, ovary problems, and tumors.

Kidney problems

Kidney infections, stones, and traumatic bleeding of the kidney (hematoma) are frequently associated with low back pain. Diagnosis can involve urine analysis, sound-wave tests (ultrasound), or other imaging studies of the abdomen.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy commonly leads to low back pain by mechanically stressing the lumbar spine (changing the normal lumbar curvature) and by the positioning of the baby inside of the abdomen. Additionally, the effects of the female hormone estrogen and the ligament-loosening hormone relaxin may contribute to loosening of the ligaments and structures of the back. Pelvic-tilt exercises and stretches are often recommended for relieving this pain. Women are also recommended to maintain physical conditioning during pregnancy according to their doctors' advice.

Ovary problems

Ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis not infrequently cause low back pain. Precise diagnosis can require gynecologic examination and testing.

Tumors

Low back pain can be caused by tumors, either benign or malignant, that originate in the bone of the spine or pelvis and spinal cord (primary tumors) and those which originate elsewhere and spread to these areas (metastatic tumors). Symptoms range from localized pain to radiating severe pain and loss of nerve and muscle function (even incontinence of urine and stool) depending on whether or not the tumors affect the nervous tissue. Tumors of these areas are detected using imaging tests, such as plain X-rays, nuclear bone scanning, and CAT and MRI scanning.

Source Medicinenet.com

(ĐTĐ) - Back pain (also known as "dorsalgia") is pain felt in the back that usually originates from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine.

 

The pain can often be divided into neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain or tailbone pain. It may have a sudden onset or can be a chronic pain; it can be constant or intermittent, stay in one place or radiate to other areas. It may be a dull ache, or a sharp or piercing or burning sensation. The pain may be radiate into the arm and hand), in the upper back, or in the low back, (and might radiate into the leg or foot), and may include symptoms other than pain, such as weakness, numbness or tingling.

Back pain is one of humanity's most frequent complaints. In the U.S., acute low back pain (also called lumbago) is the fifth most common reason for physician visits. About nine out of ten adults experience back pain at some point in their life, and five out of ten working adults have back pain every year.

The spine is a complex interconnecting network of nerves, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and all are capable of producing pain. Large nerves that originate in the spine and go to the legs and arms can make pain radiate to the extremities.

Classification

Back pain can be divided anatomically: neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain or tailbone pain.

By its duration: acute (less than 4 weeks), subacute (4 – 12 weeks), chronic (greater than 12 weeks).

By its cause: MSK, infectious, cancer, etc.

Back pain is classified according to etiology in mechanical or nonspecific back pain and secondary back pain. Approximately 98% of back pain patients are diagnosed with nonspecific acute back pain which has no serious underlying pathology. However, secondary back pain which is caused by an underlying condition accounts for nearly 2% of the cases. Underlying pathology in these cases may include metastatic cancer, spinal osteomyelitis and epidural abscess which account for 1% of the patients. Also, herniated disc is the most common neurologic impairment which is associated with this condition, from which 95% of disc herniations occur at the lowest two lumbar intervertebral level.

Associated conditions

Back pain can be a sign of a serious medical problem, although this is not most frequently the underlying cause:

  • Typical warning signs of a potentially life-threatening problem are bowel and/or bladder incontinence or progressive weakness in the legs.
  • Severe back pain (such as pain that is bad enough to interrupt sleep) that occurs with other signs of severe illness (e.g. fever, unexplained weight loss) may also indicate a serious underlying medical condition.
  • Back pain that occurs after a trauma, such as a car accident or fall may indicate a bone fracture or other injury.
  • Back pain in individuals with medical conditions that put them at high risk for a spinal fracture, such as osteoporosis or multiple myeloma, also warrants prompt medical attention.
  • Back pain in individuals with a history of cancer (especially cancers known to spread to the spine like breast, lung and prostate cancer) should be evaluated to rule out metastatic disease of the spine.
  • Back pain does not usually require immediate medical intervention. The vast majority of episodes of back pain are self-limiting and non-progressive. Most back pain syndromes are due to inflammation, especially in the acute phase, which typically lasts for two weeks to three months.

A few observational studies suggest that two conditions to which back pain is often attributed, lumbar disc herniation and degenerative disc disease may not be more prevalent among those in pain than among the general population, and that the mechanisms by which these conditions might cause pain are not known. Other studies suggest that for as many as 85% of cases, no physiological cause can be shown.

A few studies suggest that psychosocial factors such as on-the-job stress and dysfunctional family relationships may correlate more closely with back pain than structural abnormalities revealed in x-rays and other medical imaging scans.

Differential diagnosis

There are several potential sources and causes of back pain. However, the diagnosis of specific tissues of the spine as the cause of pain presents problems. This is because symptoms arising from different spinal tissues can feel very similar and is difficult to differentiate without the use of invasive diagnostic intervention procedures, such as local anesthetic blocks.

One potential source of back pain is skeletal muscle of the back. Potential causes of pain in muscle tissue include muscle strains (pulled muscles), muscle spasm, and muscle imbalances. However, imaging studies do not support the notion of muscle tissue damage in many back pain cases, and the neurophysiology of muscle spasm and muscle imbalances are not well understood.

Another potential source of low back pain is the synovial joints of the spine (e.g. zygapophysial joints/facet joints. These have been identified as the primary source of the pain in approximately one third of people with chronic low back pain, and in most people with neck pain following whiplash. However, the cause of zygapophysial joint pain is not fully understood. Capsule tissue damage has been proposed in people with neck pain following whiplash. In people with spinal pain stemming from zygapophysial joints, one theory is that intra-articular tissue such as invaginations of their synovial membranes and fibro-adipose meniscoids (that usually act as a cushion to help the bones move over each other smoothly) may become displaced, pinched or trapped, and consequently give rise to nociception (pain).

There are several common other potential sources and causes of back pain: these include spinal disc herniation and degenerative disc disease or isthmic spondylolisthesis, osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and spinal stenosis, trauma, cancer, infection, fractures, and inflammatory disease.

Radicular pain (sciatica) is distinguished from 'non-specific' back pain, and may be diagnosed without invasive diagnostic tests.

New attention has been focused on non-discogenic back pain, where patients have normal or near-normal MRI and CT scans. One of the newer investigations looks into the role of the dorsal ramus in patients that have no radiographic abnormalities. See Posterior Rami Syndrome.

Management

The management goals when treating back pain are to achieve maximal reduction in pain intensity as rapidly as possible; to restore the individual's ability to function in everyday activities; to help the patient cope with residual pain; to assess for side-effects of therapy; and to facilitate the patient's passage through the legal and socioeconomic impediments to recovery. For many, the goal is to keep the pain to a manageable level to progress with rehabilitation, which then can lead to long term pain relief. Also, for some people the goal is to use non-surgical therapies to manage the pain and avoid major surgery, while for others surgery may be the quickest way to feel better.

Not all treatments work for all conditions or for all individuals with the same condition, and many find that they need to try several treatment options to determine what works best for them. The present stage of the condition (acute or chronic) is also a determining factor in the choice of treatment. Only a minority of back pain patients (most estimates are 1% - 10%) require surgery.


 

Short-term relief

  • Heat therapy is useful for back spasms or other conditions. A meta-analysis of studies by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that heat therapy can reduce symptoms of acute and sub-acute low-back pain. Some patients find that moist heat works best (e.g. a hot bath or whirlpool) or continuous low-level heat (e.g. a heat wrap that stays warm for 4 to 6 hours). Cold compression therapy (e.g. ice or cold pack application) may be effective at relieving back pain in some cases.
  • Use of medications, such as muscle relaxants, opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs/NSAIAs) or paracetamol (acetaminophen). A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by the Cochrane Collaboration found that there is insufficient clinical trials to determine if injection therapy, usually with corticosteroids, helps in cases of low back pain A study of intramuscular corticosteroids found no benefit.
  • Massage therapy, especially from an experienced therapist, can provide short term relief. Acupressure or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic (Swedish) massage.

Depending on the particular cause of the condition, posture training courses and physical exercises might help with relieving the pain. Specialists often recommend their patients to try out different exercises that would strengthen the back's musculature and bones. Also, it has been claimed that vitamins such as vitamin D and B12 or magnesium, creams such as capsaicin cream, or plants such as willow bark or music therapy may help in relieving back pain, although it has not been proven to what extent they can be effective.

Conservative treatments

  • Exercises can be an effective approach to reducing pain, but should be done under supervision of a licensed health professional. Generally, some form of consistent stretching and exercise is believed to be an essential component of most back treatment programs. However, one study found that exercise is also effective for chronic back pain, but not for acute pain. Another study found that back-mobilizing exercises in acute settings are less effective than continuation of ordinary activities as tolerated.
  • Physical therapy consisting of manipulation and exercise, including stretching and strengthening (with specific focus on the muscles which support the spine). 'Back schools' have shown benefit in occupational settings. The Schroth method, a specialized physical exercise therapy for scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylolisthesis, and related spinal disorders, has been shown to reduce severity and frequency of back pain in adults with scoliosis.
  • A randomized control trial, published in the British Medical Journal, found that The Alexander Technique provided long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain. A subsequent review concluded that 'a series of six lessons in Alexander technique combined with an exercise prescription seems the most effective and cost effective option for the treatment of back pain in primary care'.
  • Studies of manipulation suggest that this approach has a benefit similar to other therapies and superior to placebo.
  • Acupuncture has some proven benefit for back pain; however, a recent randomized controlled trial suggested insignificant difference between real and sham acupuncture.
  • Education, and attitude adjustment to focus on psychological or emotional causes - respondent-cognitive therapy and progressive relaxation therapy can reduce chronic pain.

Surgery

Surgery may sometimes be appropriate for patients with:

  • Lumbar disc herniation or degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis from lumbar disc herniation, degenerative joint disease, or spondylolisthesis
  • Scoliosis
  • Compression fracture

Minimally invasive surgical procedures are often a solution for many symptoms and causes of back pain. These types of procedures offer many benefits over traditional spine surgery, such as more accurate diagnoses and shorter recovery times.

Surgery is usually the last resort in the treatment of back pain. It is normally recommended only if all other treatment options have been tried or if the situation is an emergency. A 2009 systematic review of back surgery studies found that, for certain diagnoses, surgery is moderately better than other common treatments, but the benefits of surgery often decline in the long term.

There are different types of surgical procedures that are used in treating various conditions causing back pain. All of them can be classified into nerve decompression, fusion of body segments and deformity correction surgeries. The first type of surgery is primarily performed in older patients who suffer from conditions causing nerve irritation or nerve damage. Fusion of bony segments is also referred to as a spinal fusion, and it is a procedure used to fuse together two or more bony fragments with the help of metalwork. The latter type of surgery is normally performed to correct congenital deformities or those that were caused by a traumatic fracture. In some cases, correction of deformities involves removing bony fragments or providing stability provision for the spine.

The main procedures used in back pain surgery are discetomies, spinal fusions, laminectomies, removal of tumors, and vertebroplasties.

A discetomy is performed when the intervertebral disc have herniated or tore. It involves removing the protruding disc, either a portion of it or all of it, that is placing pressure on the nerve root. The disc material which is putting pressure on the nerve is removed through a small incision that is made over that particular disc. This is one of the most popular types of back surgeries and which also has a high rate of success. The recovery period after this procedure does not last longer than 6 weeks. The type of procedure in which the bony fragments are removed through an endoscope is called percutaneous disc removal.

Microdiscetomies may be performed as a variation of standard discetomies in which a magnifier is used to provide the advantage of a smaller incision, thus a shorter recovery process.

Spinal fusions are performed in cases in which the patient has had the entire disc removed or when another condition has caused the vertebrae to become unstable. The procedure consists in uniting two or more vertebrae by using bone grafts and metalwork to provide more strength for the healing bone. Recovery after spinal fusion may take up to one year, depending greatly on the age of the patient, the reason why surgery has been performed and how many bony segments needed to be fused.

In cases of spinal stenosis or disc herniation, laminectomies can be performed to relieve the pressure on the nerves. During such a procedure, the surgeon enlarges the spinal canal by removing or trimming away excessive lamina which will provide more space for the nerves. The severity of the condition as well as the general health status of the patient are key factors in establishing the recovery time, which may be range from 8 weeks to 6 months.

Back surgery can be performed to prevent the growth of benign and malignant tumors. In the first case, surgery has the goal of relieving the pressure from the nerves which is caused by a benign growth, whereas in the latter the procedure is aimed to prevent the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. Recovery depends on the type of tumor that is being removed, the health status of the patient and the size of the tumor.

Of doubtful benefit

  • Cold compression therapy is advocated for a strained back or chronic back pain and is postulated to reduce pain and inflammation, especially after strenuous exercise such as golf, gardening, or lifting. However, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded "The evidence for the application of cold treatment to low-back pain is even more limited, with only three poor quality studies located. No conclusions can be drawn about the use of cold for low-back pain"
  • Bed rest is rarely recommended as it can exacerbate symptoms, and when necessary is usually limited to one or two days. Prolonged bed rest or inactivity is actually counterproductive, as the resulting stiffness leads to more pain.
  • Electrotherapy, such as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has been proposed. Two randomized controlled trials found conflicting results. This has led the Cochrane Collaboration to conclude that there is inconsistent evidence to support use of TENS. In addition, spinal cord stimulation, where an electrical device is used to interrupt the pain signals being sent to the brain and has been studied for various underlying causes of back pain.
  • Inversion therapy is useful for temporary back relief due to the traction method or spreading of the back vertebres through (in this case) gravity. The patient hangs in an upside down position for a period of time from ankles or knees until this separation occurs. The effect can be achieved without a complete vertical hang ( 90 degree) and noticeable benefits can be observed at angles as low as 10 to 45 degrees.
  • Ultrasound has been shown not to be beneficial and has fallen out of favor.

Pregnancy

About 50% of women experience low back pain during pregnancy. Back pain in pregnancy may be severe enough to cause significant pain and disability and pre-dispose patients to back pain in a following pregnancy. No significant increased risk of back pain with pregnancy has been found with respect to maternal weight gain, exercise, work satisfaction, or pregnancy outcome factors such as birth weight, birth length, and Apgar scores.

Biomechanical factors of pregnancy that are shown to be associated with low back pain of pregnancy include abdominal sagittal and transverse diameter and the depth of lumbar lordosis. Typical factors aggravating the back pain of pregnancy include standing, sitting, forward bending, lifting, and walking. Back pain in pregnancy may also be characterized by pain radiating into the thigh and buttocks, night-time pain severe enough to wake the patient, pain that is increased during the night-time, or pain that is increased during the day-time. The avoidance of high impact, weight-bearing activities and especially those that asymmetrically load the involved structures such as: extensive twisting with lifting, single-leg stance postures, stair climbing, and repetitive motions at or near the end-ranges of back or hip motion can easen the pain. Direct bending to the ground without bending the knee causes severe impact on the lower back in pregnancy and in normal individuals, which leads to strain, especially in the lumbo-saccral region that in turn strains the multifidus.

Economics

Back pain is regularly cited by national governments as having a major impact on productivity, through loss of workers on sick leave. Some national governments, notably Australia and the United Kingdom, have launched campaigns of public health awareness to help combat the problem, for example the Health and Safety Executive's Better Backs campaign. In the United States lower back pain’s economic impact reveals that it is the number one reason for individuals under the age of 45 to limit their activity, second highest complaint seen in physician’s offices, fifth most common requirement for hospitalization, and the third leading cause for surgery.

Research

Vertebroplasty involves the percutaneous injection of surgical cement into vertebral bodies that have collapsed due to compression fractures has been found to be ineffective in the treatment of compression fractures of the spine.

The use of specific biologic inhibitors of the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha may result in rapid relief of disc-related back pain.

Clinical trials

There are many clinical trials sponsored both by industry and the National Institutes of Health. Clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health related to back pain can be viewed at NIH Clinical Back Pain Trials.

Pain is subjective and is impossible to test objectively. There are no clinical tests that can be objectively verified. Clinical test utilize the patient's report of pain severity on a scale of 1 to 10. Sometimes and particularly with children a series of emoticons are presented to the patient and the subject is asked to point to an emoticon. Even though some clinical trials succeed in getting regulatory approval for products this is not a proof that this therapy is more effective or even has a benefit. All the tests rely on the patient's perception. The doctor can not verify whether 5 is a more appropriate score than 1 or 10 nor determine if one patient's 5 is comparable to another patient's rating of 5.

A 2008 randomized controlled trial found marked improvement in addressing back pain with The Alexander Technique. Exercise and a combination of 6 lessons of AT reduced back pain 72% as much as 24 AT lessons. Those receiving 24 lessons had 18 fewer days of back pain than the control median of 21 days.

Source: Wikipedia  

It is important to understand that back pain is a symptom of a medical condition, not a diagnosis itself. Medical problems that can cause back pain include the following:

Mechanical problems: A mechanical problem is due to the way your spine moves or the way you feel when you move your spine in certain ways. Perhaps the most common mechanical cause of back pain is a condition called intervertebral disc degeneration, which simply means that the discs located between the vertebrae of the spine are breaking down with age. As they deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability. This problem can lead to pain if the back is stressed. Other mechanical causes of back pain include spasms, muscle tension, and ruptured discs, which are also called herniated discs.

Injuries: Spine injuries such as sprains and fractures can cause either short-lived or chronic back pain. Sprains are tears in the ligaments that support the spine, and they can occur from twisting or lifting improperly. Fractured vertebrae are often the result of osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak, porous bones. Less commonly, back pain may be caused by more severe injuries that result from accidents and falls.

Acquired conditions and diseases: Many medical problems can cause or contribute to back pain. They include scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine and does not usually cause pain until mid-life; spondylolisthesis; various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis; and spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. While osteoporosis itself is not painful, it can lead to painful fractures of the vertebrae. Other causes of back pain include pregnancy; kidney stones or infections; endometriosis, which is the buildup of uterine tissue in places outside the uterus; and fibromyalgia, which causes fatigue and widespread muscle pain.

Infections and tumors: Although they are not common causes of back pain, infections can cause pain when they involve the vertebrae, a condition called osteomyelitis, or when they involve the discs that cushion the vertebrae, which is called discitis. Tumors, too, are relatively rare causes of back pain. Occasionally, tumors begin in the back, but more often they appear in the back as a result of cancer that has spread from elsewhere in the body.

Although the causes of back pain are usually physical, it is important to know that emotional stress can play a role in how severe pain is and how long it lasts. Stress can affect the body in many ways, including causing back muscles to become tense and painful.

Source WemMD.com

 

(ĐTĐ) - In human anatomy, the vertebral column (backbone or spine) is a column usually consisting of 33 vertebrae, the sacrum, intervertebral discs, and the coccyx situated in the dorsal aspect of the torso, separated by spinal discs. It houses and protects the spinal cord in its spinal canal.

Curves 

The vertebral column seen from the side

Viewed laterally the vertebral column presents several curves, which correspond to the different regions of the column, and are called cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic.

The cervical curve, convex forward, begins at the apex of the odontoid (tooth-like) process, and ends at the middle of the second thoracic vertebra; it is the least marked of all the curves.

The thoracic curve, concave forward, begins at the middle of the second and ends at the middle of the twelfth thoracic vertebra. Its most prominent point behind corresponds to the spinous process of the seventh thoracic vertebra. This curve is known as a tt curve.

The lumbar curve is more marked in the female than in the male; it begins at the middle of the last thoracic vertebra, and ends at the sacrovertebral angle. It is convex anteriorly, the convexity of the lower three vertebrae being much greater than that of the upper two. This curve is described as a lordotic curve.

The pelvic curve begins at the sacrovertebral articulation, and ends at the point of the coccyx; its concavity is directed downward and forward. .

The thoracic and pelvic curves are termed primary curves, because they alone are present during fetal life. The cervical and lumbar curves are compensatory or secondary, and are developed after birth, the former when the child is able to hold up its head (at three or four months) and to sit upright (at nine months), the latter at twelve or eighteen months, when the child begins to walk.

Names of individual vertebrae

Different regions (curvatures) of the vertebral column

There are a total of 33 vertebrae in the vertebral column, if assuming 4 coccygeal vertebrae.

The individual vertebrae, named according to region and position, from superior to inferior, are:

Cervical: 7 vertebrae (C1–C7)

C1 is known as "atlas" and supports the head, C2 is known as "axis", C7 is known as "vertebra prominens"

Possesses bifid spinous processes, which is absent in C1 and C7

Only cervical vertebrae have transverse foramen

Small-bodied

Thoracic: 12 vertebrae (T1–T12)

Distinguished by the presence of costal facets for the articulation of the heads of ribs

Body is intermediate in size between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae

Lumbar: 5 vertebrae (L1–L5)

Has a large body

Does not have costal facets nor transverse process foramina

Sacral: 5 (fused) vertebrae (S1–S5)

Coccygeal: 4 (3–5) (fused) vertebrae (Tailbone)

Surfaces

Anterior surface

When viewed from in front, the width of the bodies of the vertebrae is seen to increase from the second cervical to the first thoracic; there is then a slight diminution in the next three vertebrae; below this there is again a gradual and progressive increase in width as low as the sacrovertebral angle. From this point there is a rapid diminution, to the apex of the coccyx.

Posterior surface

The posterior surface of the vertebral column presents in the median line the spinous processes. In the cervical region (with the exception of the second and seventh vertebrae) these are short and horizontal, with bifid extremities. In the upper part of the thoracic region they are directed obliquely downward; in the middle they are almost vertical, and in the lower part they are nearly horizontal. In the lumbar region they are nearly horizontal. The spinous processes are separated by considerable intervals in the lumbar region, by narrower intervals in the neck, and are closely approximated in the middle of the thoracic region. Occasionally one of these processes deviates a little from the median line — a fact to be remembered in practice, as irregularities of this sort are attendant also on fractures or displacements of the vertebral column. On either side of the spinous processes is the vertebral groove formed by the laminae in the cervical and lumbar regions, where it is shallow, and by the laminae and transverse processes in the thoracic region, where it is deep and broad; these grooves lodge the deep muscles of the back. Lateral to the vertebral grooves are the articular processes, and still more laterally the transverse processes. In the thoracic region, the transverse processes stand backward, on a plane considerably behind that of the same processes in the cervical and lumbar regions. In the cervical region, the transverse processes are placed in front of the articular processes, lateral to the pedicles and between the intervertebral foramina. In the thoracic region they are posterior to the pedicles, intervertebral foramina, and articular processes. In the lumbar region they are in front of the articular processes, but behind the intervertebral foramina.

T3 is at level of medial part of spine of scapula. T7 is at inferior angle of the scapula. L4 is at highest point of iliac crest. S2 is at the level of posterior superior iliac spine. T12 can be found by identifying the lowest pair of ribs and tracing them to their thoracic attachment. Furthermore, C7 is easily localized as a prominence at the lower part of the neck.

Lateral surfaces

Orientation of vertebral column on surface

The lateral surfaces are separated from the posterior surface by the articular processes in the cervical and lumbar regions, and by the transverse processes in the thoracic region. They present, in back, the sides of the bodies of the vertebrae, marked in the thoracic region by the facets for articulation with the heads of the ribs. More posteriorly are the intervertebral foramina, formed by the juxtaposition of the vertebral notches, oval in shape, smallest in the cervical and upper part of the thoracic regions, and gradually increasing in size to the last lumbar. They transmit the special spinal nerves and are situated between the transverse processes in the cervical region, and in front of them in the thoracic and lumbar regions.

Vertebral canal

The vertebral canal follows the different curves of the column; it is large and triangular in those parts of the column which enjoy the greatest freedom of movement, such as the cervical and lumbar regions; and is small and rounded in the thoracic region, where motion is more limited.

Abnormalities

Occasionally the coalescence of the laminae is not completed, and consequently a cleft is left in the arches of the vertebrae, through which a protrusion of the spinal membranes (dura mater and arachnoid), and generally of the spinal cord (medulla spinalis) itself, takes place, constituting the malformation known as spina bifida. This condition is most common in the lumbosacral region, but it may occur in the thoracic or cervical region, or the arches throughout the whole length of the canal may remain incomplete.

The following abnormal curvatures may occur in some people:

  • Kyphosis is an exaggerated kyphotic (posterior) curvature in the thoracic region. This produces the so-called "humpback" or "dowager's hump", a condition commonly observed in osteoporosis.
  • Lordosis is an exaggerated lordotic (anterior) curvature of the lumbar region, "swayback". Temporary lordosis is common among pregnant women.
  • Retrolisthesis is a posterior displacement of one vertebral body with respect to the adjacent vertebral segment to a degree less than a luxation (dislocation).
  • Scoliosis, lateral curvature, is the most common abnormal curvature, occurring in 0.5% of the population. It is more common among females and may result from unequal growth of the two sides of one or more vertebrae. It can also be caused by pulmonary atelectasis (partial or complete deflation of one or more lobes of the lungs) as observed in asthma or pneumothorax.

 Source: Wikipedia

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