Common Spine Disc Conditions

Common Spine Disc Conditions

June 10, 2010  |  Articles

Lumbar Musculoligamentous Strain

The muscles of the lower back are critical in maintaining upright posture and providing controlled movement of the spine, thereby protecting the spine from injury. Strong muscles reduce stress placed on the disc, facet joints and ligaments. With prolonged bending, twisting or heavy lifting, the muscles can be over-stretched, causing a musculoligamentous strain.

Herniated “ruptured” disc

With repetitive stress to the disc, the outer fibers called annular fibers weaken and the “gel” can bulge out or herniate into the spinal canal. Depending upon the location of the disc protrusion or herniation, symptoms can vary. If the disc herniation contacts a nerve root, leg pain, numbness, tingling or weakness may be experienced.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Repetitive stress applied to the spine such as poor posture, lifting and bending, and faulty living habits including smoking or lack of exercise contribute to the gradual wear and tear on the lumbar discs. In addition, with aging natural changes occur in the disc. Increased stiffness is seen due to the gradual loss of water content and change in the intradiscal chemical makeup. Degenerative disc changes are common and will sometimes cause pain.

Spinal Arthritis

With normal movement each individual vertebrae moves in cooperation with the adjacent one. The facet joints guide movement and stabilization by limiting excessive motion. With repetitive stress to the spine, disc degenerative changes can occur. The facet joints can become swollen and inflamed, creating pain and restriction in movement.

Other types of arthritis (rheumatoid, ankylosing spondylitis) can affect the spine, but this occurs much less frequently.

Spondylolisthesis

In this condition, one vertebra slides forward on the one below it. Depending on the degree of slippage, nerve compression can occur resulting in leg pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. In addition, increased strain is placed on the surrounding spinal structures, contributing to pain and stiffness.

Spinal Stenosis

Narrowing of the spinal canal can occur as a result of arthritic changes in the spine with bone spurs projecting into the spinal canal or narrowing the neural foramen. As a result, compression on the spinal nerve roots or cord can occur. Common symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness and heaviness of the legs. Symptoms generally increase (get worse) during walking or standing and decrease (get better) with lying down or sitting.