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General Practice 2023

7 main spinal problems (and how to treat them)

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7 main spinal problems (and how to treat them)
7 main spinal problems (and how to treat them)

Spine problems, such as a herniated disc, parrot's beak or hyperlordosis, can arise in the cervical, lumbar or thoracic region of the spine, causing back pain in the affected region, which, in some cases, can radiate to the other places such as legs, arms or neck.

Generally, spine problems arise with the natural aging of the body, but they can also occur due to poor posture, excess weight, lack of physical activity or as a result of congenital changes. See other causes of column problems.

It is important to consult the orthopedist whenever there is a suspicion of a problem with the spine, especially if there is pain in the spine that does not improve and/or other symptoms, such as a burning sensation or burning sensation in the legs or arms, to identify the cause and start the most appropriate treatment, which may include the use of analgesics, physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery.

The main column problems are:

1. Disc herniation

A herniated disc is a problem that can happen in the cervical, lumbar or thoracic region and arises when a vertebral disc, located between the vertebrae of the spine, dislocates, leaving the correct position, or breaks, which ends up causing compression of the nerves in the region. Understand better how a herniated disc arises.

Usually, a herniated disc causes pain in the spine, which can be localized or radiate to other places such as legs and arms. In addition, depending on the region of the spine affected, other symptoms such as a burning sensation, tingling or feeling of weakness in the arms or legs may appear.

How to treat: herniated disc treatment should be done by the orthopedist who may recommend physical therapy or the use of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help to relieve pain and decrease inflammation.In more severe cases, the doctor may even recommend surgery. See the main treatment options for herniated discs.

2. Parrot's beak

Parrot-beak shaped osteophytes

Parrot-beak-shaped osteophytes

The parrot's beak, scientifically called osteophytosis, is an alteration that arises in the vertebrae of the spine, in which the formation of new bone structures on the edges of the vertebrae, known as osteophytes, occurs, and which have the shape of a hook, similar to a parrot's beak.

Parrot's beak can cause symptoms such as severe back pain or tingling in the arms or leg, and usually happens due to normal aging of the spine or poor posture over the years, but it can also occur due to others problems such as a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, scoliosis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example.

How to treat: the treatment for parrot beak should be guided by the orthopedist, and the use of analgesics, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or corticosteroids, may be indicated to reduce pain and inflammation. In addition, physical therapy may be indicated to help strengthen the muscles around the affected vertebrae, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary. Understand better how parrot beak is treated.

3. Osteoarthritis in the spine

Arthrosis in the spine is a disease, also known as osteoarthritis of the spine or spondyloarthrosis, which occurs due to a wear of the cartilage of the vertebrae, which can affect different regions of the spine such as the cervical or lumbar.

This spinal disorder can cause severe back pain that worsens with movement, difficulty moving the affected region of the spine, or a tingling or numb sensation in the legs, arms, or neck.

Although it is more common in the elderly, osteoarthritis can also affect young people and can be caused by accidents, excessive physical activity or lifting too much weight, for example.

How to treat: the treatment of osteoarthritis in the spine should be guided by the orthopedist and aims to promote symptom relief. In this way, the use of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, steroids or opioids, for example, may be indicated. In addition, the doctor may recommend physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery. See all treatment options for osteoarthritis in the spine.

4. Hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis is a more pronounced inward curvature of the spine, which can occur in either the cervical or lumbar region, and which can cause pain or discomfort in the neck or lower back.

This spine problem can be caused by poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, obesity or a progressive muscle weakening, called muscular dystrophy.In addition, hyperlordosis can also arise during pregnancy, due to changes in the curvature of the spine and the body's center of gravity, causing the lower back to be pulled forward while the abdomen is projected out.

The diagnosis of hyperlordosis is made by the orthopedist based on an assessment of posture and symptoms, in addition to an X-ray examination.

How to treat: Hyperlordosis treatment is performed by an orthopedist, who may indicate the practice of physical activities, such as swimming or Pilates, to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen that give support the column. Treatment with physical therapy or global postural recovery or “RPG” may also be recommended by the doctor. Check out other hyperlordosis treatments.

5. Hyperkyphosis

Hyperkyphosis, also known as kyphosis or "hunchback", happens when the spine has a sharp curve outwards, causing the neck, shoulders and head to be too inclined forward, and can cause back pain, difficulty keeping the body straight, and in some cases, difficulty breathing.

This spine problem can be caused by poor posture, weakness of the muscles located next to the spine and abdominal muscles, or due to accidents or falls.

The diagnosis of hyperkyphosis is made by the orthopedist by evaluating the curvature of the spine and performing imaging tests, such as X-rays.

How to treat: the treatment of hyperkyphosis should be guided by an orthopedist, who may indicate the practice of physical exercises, physical therapy or the use of orthopedic brace. In more severe cases, the doctor may recommend surgery to correct the deviation of the spine. Understand better how hyperkyphosis is treated.

6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is another disease that can affect the spine, and it occurs when the bones of the spine are weaker and fragile due to decreased bone mass, due to a lower ability of the body to metabolize and absorb calcium from food, an essential mineral for bone he alth.

This disease is more common after age 50 and in women, especially after menopause, increasing the risk of spinal fractures.

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that has no symptoms, being discovered in routine exams, such as X-ray or bone densitometry, or in cases of bone fractures that occur spontaneously. Learn how to identify osteoporosis.

How to treat: Osteoporosis treatment should be done according to the general practitioner or orthopedist's guidance, and the use of drugs that stimulate bone mass production is usually indicated, such as calcium and vitamin D supplements.

In addition, you can have a diet richer in calcium and vitamin D, under the guidance of a nutritionist, to complement the treatment indicated by the doctor. See how to make a diet for osteoporosis.

7. Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a lateral deviation of the spine, in a C or S shape, that affects many young people and adolescents, leading to the appearance of some symptoms that can be perceived over time and according to the severity of the deviation, such as one shoulder higher than the other, one side of the hip angled more upward, or persistent muscle pain.Understand better what scoliosis is and how to identify it.

This alteration in most cases has no known cause, however in some cases it may be related to lack of physical activity, poor posture or the fact of sitting or lying down for a long time with a crooked spine, for example.

The diagnosis of scoliosis is made with exams such as the X-ray, which also shows its degree, and which are important to define the best type of treatment.

How to treat: depending on the degree of deviation in the spine, the doctor may recommend physical exercises in milder cases, such as swimming, physical therapy or use of orthopedic brace. In more severe cases, in which there is a large deviation of the spine, surgery is usually indicated.

Watch the following video and learn the exercises you can do at home to help correct scoliosis:

When to go to the doctor

It is recommended to consult the orthopedist whenever there is constant pain in the spine so that its cause can be evaluated and identified.

Other signs that may indicate a more serious situation include:

  • Intense back pain that does not improve with analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • Difficulty moving;
  • Pain that persists or gets worse over time;
  • Spine pain that radiates to other regions of the body;
  • Fever or chills;
  • Accidents that may have injured the spine;
  • Loss of more than 5 kg in 6 months for no apparent reason;
  • Difficulty controlling urine and feces;
  • Muscle weakness.

At the consultation, in addition to evaluating the symptoms, the doctor may ask for some tests, such as X-ray or MRI, to better determine the cause.

It is important to tell the doctor the characteristics of the pain, when it started, what you were doing when it started, if there is a time when it gets worse or if there are other areas affected.

How to prevent spinal diseases

To prevent spinal problems, it is important to practice physical exercises regularly under professional guidance to strengthen the abdominal muscles, which are important for supporting the spine, Furthermore, one should have good posture while sitting, lying or moving, and avoid lifting weights incorrectly.

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