Assessing Back Problems – Skeletal Problems

Osteophytis may produce no symptoms at all. But if an osteophyte grows into the gap through which a nerve root leaves the spinal column, or
into the spinal canal itself, the sufferer can experience great pain.

Spinal stenosis

A narrowing of the canal through which the spinal cord passes is termed spinal stenosis. It can be caused suddenly by a prolapsed disc or
gradually by joint changes due to osteoarthritis and by the growth of osteophytes. It is more common in people who have a naturally narrower
spinal canal and in those who have a vertebra which has slipped out of alignment with the rest of the spine.

Spinal stenosis is more common in the lumbar region. The narrowing that results from this problem can put pressure on the spinal cord and
nerve roots. Symptoms can include pain, tingling and numbness in the legs that is made worse by standing erect and walking and relieved by
sitting, squatting or bending forward. This is because the spinal canal widens when you adopt these positions. If you are overweight, losing the
excess kilograms helps to relieve the symptoms. In serious cases, however, surgery to release the pressure on the spinal cord may be needed.

If you experience pain in your back or legs accompanied by weakness or numbness or any loss of bladder or bowel control, sudden incontinence
or loss of the normal feeling of wanting to go to the lavatory, seek medical help immediately as you may need urgent treatment.

Diseases related problems – Other skeletal problems in the back are cause by diseases, mainly forms of arthritis, that can cause damage as the
conditions progress.

Ankylosing spondylitis

This fairly rare condition is also known as bamboo spine. It is a form of arthritis in which the joints of the spine gradually stiffen and
lock rigid. Ankylosing spondylitis mainly affects young men and often runs in families. It normally starts at the sacroiliac joints and spread
slowly upward, although it can also spread down into the hips, occasionally, into the other leg joints. In severe cases the spine locks
permanently into a bowed posture.

To treat this disease, painkillers and anti inflammatory drugs are prescribed, and exercises can help to keep affected joints flexible. Many
people with the condition find that general exercise, especially swimming, is invaluable. Yoga exercises maintain general mobility and yoga
breathing exercises, in particular, help open up the rib cage. Osteopathy, chiropractic and massage can also be beneficial.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

One of the most common forms of inflammatory joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis normally affects joints symmetrically, both wrists and both
feet, for example. The disease usually begins in the small joints of the hands and feet and progresses slowly to the larger joints, such as the
hips and shoulders.

Rheumatoid arthritis does not usually affect the spine until many years after the condition has been diagnosed. When it does, however, it can
cause a partial or complete dislocation of a neck vertebra. This complication makes manipulation of the neck, by an osteopath or a chiropractor,
for example, potentially dangerous as it could result in a sudden compression of the spinal cord. Always fully discuss your medical history with
a practitioner before any therapy begins.


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