Conditions We Treat

Our multidisciplinary team of spine specialists is highly skilled and experienced in treating a range of spinal injuries and disorders. We bring together the expertise of physicians from all disciplines of orthopedic surgery and musculoskeletal medicine to provide comprehensive evaluation, treatment, and follow-up.

Spinal conditions can range in type and severity, but even minor problems can impair your ability to work, make your daily activities difficult and affect your normal quality of life.

The conditions we treat include the following.

Arthritis of the Spine

Arthritis of the spine is a degenerative joint disease in which the protective cartilage of the joints and discs in the neck and lower back degenerates, or wears down. Symptoms of arthritis in the spine can include stiffness or pain in the neck or back, and if severe, may cause pain, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs. Other symptoms can include:

  • Tenderness of the spine
  • Difficulty sleeping caused by spinal pain
  • Loss of flexibility or difficulty bending
  • Crunching feeling or sound in the joints of the spine, particularly in the neck

Risk factors for developing arthritis of the spine include:

  • Aging: Deterioration of joint cartilage can begin in early adulthood, but accelerates after 50.
  • Gender: Women have a higher risk of developing arthritis in the spine than men.
  • Lifestyle factors: Excess weight can put stress on the joints, leading to cartilage deterioration.
  • Disease: Gout, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and infections can cause arthritis in the spine.
  • Family history: Having a family history of arthritis or other joint conditions may increase your risk.

Cervical Myelopathy

Cervical myelopathy is dysfunction of the spinal cord, most often caused by compression of the spinal cord, which then interferes with normal nerve transmission. This compression can be the result of arthritis of the spine, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, injury, and other conditions. Symptoms of cervical myelopathy can include:

  • Stiffness and weakness in the legs, arms or hands
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs, arms or hands
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty balancing when standing and walking
  • Difficulty with fine motor movements of the hands
  • Pain or aching in one or both sides of the neck
  • Pain in the arms and shoulders 

In some mild cases of cervical myelopathy, symptoms may be managed with anti-inflammatory medication, oral corticosteroid medications, and physical therapy. In other cases, surgery may be required to decompress the spine.

The main risk factor for developing cervical myelopathy is age, as it results from age-related degeneration. It is a very common disorder in people over the age of 55. However, an injury to the spine can accelerate the development of cervical myelopathy.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which natural wear-and-tear on the spinal discs, vertebrae and joints causes tissue to break down, leading to pain and other symptoms. Nearly everyone’s spinal column wears down as part of the aging process. When the degenerative changes in the disc cause symptoms, it is considered degenerative disc disease. This pain can range from mild and aching to severe and debilitating. Symptoms of degenerative disc disease can include:

  • Pain that affects the low back, buttocks and thighs
  • Pain in the neck that radiates to the arms and hands
  • Pain that is worsened by sitting, bending, lifting or twisting
  • Numbness and tingling in the limbs
  • Weakness in the muscles of the arms or legs

The majority of people over the age of 60 experience degeneration of the spinal discs, with or without symptoms. Risk factors can include:

  • Daily activities, work and sports: Everyday activities, vigorous work tasks and sports can cause tears in the outer wall of the disc. These tears can produce pain and accelerate the degenerative process.
  • Traumatic Injuries: Injury can cause inflammation, swelling, soreness and instability.

Herniated Discs

A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of the disc ruptures through a tear in the outer wall and irritates the surrounding nerves. This occurs most often in the lower back and in the smaller discs of the neck. Symptoms of a herniated disc can include pain, numbness or weakness. Some people with a herniated disc may experience no symptoms. Other symptoms can include:

  • Back pain
  • Weakness in the leg or foot
  • Tingling or numbness in the leg or foot
  • Weakness in one arm
  • Tingling or numbness in one arm
  • Burning pain in the shoulders, neck, or arm

Disc herniation is most often the result of age-related disc degeneration. Over time, discs become less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with strain. Other risk factors for developing a herniated disc can include:

  • Strain: Improper lifting or putting strain or sudden pressure on your spine can lead to a herniated disc.
  • Body weight: Excessive body weight can place added stress on the discs of the lower back.
  • Occupation: People with physically demanding jobs that involve repetitive strenuous activities are at increased risk.
  • Lifestyle factors: An inactive lifestyle or regularly sitting in the same position for a long time increases your risk. Smoking can also increase your risk.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This can cause pressure on the nerves contained within the lumbar spinal column. Spinal stenosis can develop in any part of the spine but is most common in the lower back. Early spinal stenosis may have no symptoms. In most people, symptoms develop gradually over time. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the back
  • Pain radiating into the buttocks and down into the legs (sciatica)
  • Numbness, tingling, cramping, or weakness in the legs
  • Loss of sensation in the lower extremities
  • Weakness in a foot that causes the foot to slap down when walking ("foot drop")

Pressure on nerves in the lumbar region can also cause more serious symptoms known as cauda equine syndrome. Get immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Numbness over the genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks
  • Severe pain and weakness that spreads into one or both legs, making it difficult to walk

The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis or spondylosis. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in people who are 50 or older. Women have a higher risk of developing spinal stenosis than men. Other conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:

  • Congenital narrowing of the spinal canal
  • Traumatic injury to the spine
  • Spinal tumor
  • Certain bone diseases
  • Past surgery of the spine
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and thin, leaving them at greater risk of fracture. Symptoms of osteoporosis may include pain in the bones. Some people with osteoporosis may experience no symptoms. The symptoms of osteoporosis may look like other bone disorders or medical problems. Your doctor can perform tests, including a bone density test, to accurately diagnose osteoporosis. Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:

  • Aging: Bones become less dense and weaker with age.
  • Body weight: People who weigh less and have less muscle are more at risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Lifestyle factors: Lack of physical activity, caffeine use, excessive alcohol use, smoking, dietary calcium, and vitamin D deficiency may all increase your risk.
  • Medication: Certain medicines may increase your risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Family history: Having a family history of bone disease may increase your risk.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine, usually associated with some degree of rotation of the vertebral column. Both the thoracic and lumbar spine may be affected. Some of the most common symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • Difference in shoulder height
  • Difference in hip height or position
  • Difference in shoulder blade height or position
  • The head being uncentered with the rest of the body
  • When standing straight, difference in the way the arms hang beside the body
  • When bending forward, the sides of the back appear different in height

The symptoms of scoliosis may be similar to other spinal conditions or deformities. Your doctor can perform tests to accurately diagnose scoliosis.

In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis, which is most commonly observed in adolescents. In adults, scoliosis may develop as a result of breakdown of the spinal discs, caused by arthritis, osteoporosis, or hereditary conditions. There are two classifications of causes of scoliosis:

  • Nonstructural scoliosis: A structurally normal spine is curved due to one or more underlying conditions, such as a difference in leg length or an inflammatory condition. This type of scoliosis is generally temporary and is often relieved when the underlying condition is treated.
  • Structural scoliosis: The possible causes of structural scoliosis can include disease, birth defect, injury, infection, or abnormal growth. Idiopathic scoliosis is considered structural scoliosis.

Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury involves damage to the tissue of the spinal cord. It can cause permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury. The majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma to the vertebral column. This type of injury affects the spinal cord's ability to send and receive messages from the brain to the body's sensory, motor and autonomic systems. The severity of a spinal cord injury and the degree to which it affects the body’s functions is classified into two types:

  • Complete spinal cord injury: This produces total loss of all motor and sensory function below the site of injury. Both sides of the body are equally affected.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury: Some sensory and motor function remains below the site of injury. One arm or leg may move more easily than the other, or one side of the body may have more function than the other.

Symptoms of spinal cord injuries of any kind many include:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of or altered sensation, including ability to feel temperature and touch
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
  • Pain or abnormal sensations
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing

A serious spinal cord injury isn’t always obvious. Signs of a spinal cord injury can include:

  • Extreme pain or pressure in the neck or back
  • Weakness, paralysis or lack of coordination in any part of the body
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet or toes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty balancing and walking
  • Impaired breathing
  • Abnormally positioned or twisted neck or back

A traumatic spinal cord injury may result from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses the vertebrae. It can also be caused by trauma that penetrates and cuts the spinal cord.

A nontraumatic spinal cord injury can be caused by arthritis, cancer, tumors, inflammation, infections or disc degeneration.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that causes one of the lower vertebrae in the spine to slip forward relative to the bone directly beneath it. People with mild spondylolisthesis may experience no symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Stiffness in your back and legs
  • Lower back tenderness
  • Thigh or lower leg pain
  • Tight hamstring and buttock muscles
  • Difficulty standing and walking

Spondylolisthesis is more likely to occur in children and adolescents who play sports that require frequent hyperextension of the spine, such as gymnastics, football and weightlifting. This overuse can weaken the bone, leading to fracture and slippage of the vertebrae. Other causes can include:

  • Birth defect
  • Injury
  • Hereditary condition
  • Rapid growth during adolescence
  • Arthritis in the spine

Learn more about spine treatment at the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute