Common Spine Conditions

South Denver Neurosurgery treats an array of back pain, neck pain, and spinal conditions. Find out more about the most common types:

Degenerative Spine Conditions

Degenerative spine conditions result in a “breakdown” of function and normal structure of the spine over a period of time resulting in back and neck pain. These conditions are most often caused by aging, tumors, infections, or arthritis can lead to some conditions. Common degenerative spine conditions include:

  • Degenerative disc disease (DDD) – A common source of lower back pain, DDD evolves gradually as the discs lose flexibility, elasticity, and shock-absorbing characteristics through normal wear and tear in the process of aging.
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction – SI joints are where the pelvis and lower spine connect. When SI joint becomes inflamed or the cartilage wears down, SI joint dysfunction occurs, causing up to 30 percent of all lower back pain. 
  • Herniated discs (or disc herniation, also called “slipped disc”) – Occurs when a portion or all of a disc moves out of place (slips). It often can irritate nearby nerves, resulting in pain, tingling or generalized weakness in an arm or leg. Disc herniation is often the result of disc degeneration that is caused by aging.
  • Radiculopathy – Occurs when a nerve in the spine is compressed. It most commonly occurs in the lower back and the neck. It can result from a number of other spine conditions, including disc herniation and degenerative disc disease. Symptoms of radiculopathy include pain and numbness or weakness around the area where the nerve is located. Most treatment options for radiculopathy are non-invasive and may include medications, injections, and physical therapy.
  • Spinal stenosis – Most often occurring in the neck or lower back, spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows, which can be caused by a series of issues including overgrown bone, herniated disks, tumors, and spinal injuries. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine. The pressure can cause pain, muscle weakness, incontinence, and problems with bowel function.
  • Spondylolisthesis – Occurs when one vertebra slips forward and covers the vertebra below. Spondylolisthesis usually occurs when the top vertebra has a defect, commonly known as spondylolysis. Symptoms can include lower back pain, leg pain, and numbness and tingling in the leg.
  • Myelopathy – A condition resulting from inflammation, disease, or trauma to the spinal cord, causing damage to nerves located in the neck. Myelopathy can affect mobility and feeling in the arms and hands, legs, and bowel as well as bladder function.
  • Synovial cyst – A fluid-filled sac in the spine that has developed as a result of degenerative disc disease (DDD). Symptoms of a synovial cyst are similar to spinal stenosis and typically include pain in the lower back that radiates down one or both legs.
  • Facet arthropathy – A type of arthritis that affects the joints in the lower back, It can occur if joints in the spinal area become compressed or if there is inflammation in the fluid-filled disc that helps to protect bones located in the spine. The most common symptoms of facet arthropathy are numbness and  tingling or radiating pain in the arms and legs.
  • Scoliosis – An abnormal curvature of the spine that most often results from growth during puberty. Scoliosis can be caused by conditions like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. 
Most often, degenerative spine conditions require minimal treatment and may improve through simple exercises and strengthening. In rare cases, a discectomy – a surgery to remove all or part of the discs causing issues – is performed.  Discectomy is most commonly performed for herniated discs and may be part of a more comprehensive procedure such as a spinal fusion or laminectomy.  

 

Traumatic Spine Conditions

Spine conditions that are related to trauma can occur from a series of events, including car and driving accidents, sports injuries, falls, and certain diseases such as osteoarthritis. Trauma-related spine conditions typically result in sprains, fractures and bone dislocations in the spine. Depending on the number of vertebrae involved, certain injuries can cause compression or wedge fractures and may lead to a spinal deformity, such as kyphosis. Treatments for traumatic spine conditions vary depending on the severity of the injury and often include surgery.

 

Infectious Spine Conditions

Spinal infections can occur following a surgery or develop in the form of fungal organisms or bacteria. Certain risk factors increase the chances of contracting an infection in the spine, including poor nutrition, immune suppression, diabetes, and certain cancers. Conditions that are caused from infection include:

  • Vertebral osteomyelitis
  • Discitis
  • Spinal epidural abscess
  • Meningitis

Most cases of infectious spine conditions can be treated with antibiotics and may require hospitalization. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary if there is severe impact to a bone, neurological issues occur, or the condition is not responsive to antibiotics or the patient is unable to tolerate medications.

 

Neoplastic Spine Conditions

Neoplastic spine conditions involve tumors (benign or cancerous) located in the spinal region, most commonly the vertebrae and spinal cord. In most cases, the tumor causes spinal cord compression and can damage nerves located near the area of the tumor, causing neurological problems and possible paralysis. Progression of such tumors depends on whether or not the tumor is cancerous. Treatment for neoplastic spine conditions may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

 

Spinal Deformity Conditions

Spinal deformity conditions occur when there is a curvature in the spine. Most spinal deformities are non-progressive but can cause persistent pain that can become debilitating. Spinal deformities include:

  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Scoliosis
  • Kyphosis
  • Lordosis

Many treatment options are available based on the severity of the condition. Options include bracing to correct spine curvature, physical therapy, and spine surgery