There are many different issues that can affect the spine. Some are congenital defects that present from birth or develop later on in life, while many others are the result of degeneration of the anatomy of the spine that occurs with advancing age.
Patients who spend long periods of time sitting down, or who play sports either as an amateur or professional, are more likely to experience problems with their spine due to the excessive pressure their activities place on it.
Here are some of the most common spinal disorders that we see at The London Independent Hospital.
A slipped/herniated disc occurs when one of the intervertebral discs slips slightly out of place, bulging outwards from the spine. This makes it less effective at cushioning the two vertebrae on either side.
The herniated disc can also irritate surrounding nerves, causing discomfort and other symptoms, such as shooting pain from the buttocks into the leg, called sciatica, and weakness on the same side. Around six out of every ten patients who are referred to The London Independent Hospital have a slipped disc.
Although anyone can suffer from a slipped disc, Mr Sedra explains that there are primarily two groups of people most commonly affected. He says, “One group of patients who we regularly see with slipped discs are those who work long hours sitting at desks, such as city workers doing eight to ten hours a day with little movement.”
One of the reasons for this is that poor posture can accelerate natural wear and tear on the spine.
Another demographic of patients commonly affected is those who are involved in sports, either at an amateur or professional level. Again, activities like running, cycling and even lifting weights can put abnormal pressure on the spine, accelerating the rate at which degeneration happens.
Neck or arm pain tends to be the second most common reason why patients visit The London Independent Hospital specialist spinal team.
Also known as brachialgia, it tends to be caused by either a slipped disc or osteoarthritis in the cervical spine.
Patients with brachialgia often experience pain, numbness and weakness that extends from the neck down into the arms and even hands, following the pattern of nerves that serve the top section of the body.
There are many different types of spinal deformities, and they can affect adults and children.
The most common spinal deformity in adults is known as degenerative scoliosis — a condition caused by accelerated wear and tear on the discs and joints of the spine that causes a side-to-side curvature that usually affects the lower spine.
Other adult spinal deformities include:
- Kyphosis: characterised by the appearance of a ‘hump’ in the upper back, kyphosis involves the upper back curving forwards
- Lordosis: a deformity in the lower back, causing it to curve inwards instead of outwards
It’s not only adults who can be affected by spinal deformities — children can have congenital spinal deformities too. Developing before birth, they can occur if the vertebrae don’t form properly.
Depending on the severity of the deformity, this can lead to other health problems as a child grows and develops. This can include developmental problems with the heart, kidneys or urinary tract, and problems with breathing, walking and moving around.
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the space in the centre of the spine narrows.
This can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. The nerves can get trapped in the spinal canal or where they leave the spine, which can cause weakness or pain in your legs, and affect the way you walk.