Spine Disorders

What are spine disorders?

The spine comprises 33 vertebrae, ligaments, intervertebral discs, muscles and nerves. Spine disorders or spinal cord disorders are conditions that cause injury (traumatic and non-traumatic) to any part of the spine. They encompass the following conditions:

  • Spondylosis: cervical spondylosis and lumbar spondylosis occur due to osteoarthritis of the spinal column.
  • Slipped discs: also known as herniated discs, occur when the intervertebral discs get pushed out, causing them to bulge and come into contact with neighbouring spinal nerves, thus resulting in pain.
  • Sciatica: usually caused by slipped discs which bulge and press on the sciatic nerve. This causes pain and discomfort stretching from the hips and buttocks down to the legs.
  • Spine tumours: abnormal growths on or around the spinal cord. Spine tumours can grow and press on nearby nerves, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Spine injuries: spinal cord injuries or trauma are damage or injuries to any part of the spine which may result in partial or complete paralysis.
  • Scoliosis: scoliosis is characterised by an abnormal spine curvature. 
spinal cord disorders
Spine disorders comprise a range of conditions such as scoliosis, spine tumours, spondylosis, etc.

What causes spine disorders?

Spinal cord disorders can originate from either outside or inside the spinal cord; in general, spine disorders can be caused by the following conditions:

  • Abscesses: these fluid-filled cavities can grow and put pressure on neighbouring tissues or nerves, resulting in spinal cord compression.
  • Blocked blood supply: also known as a spinal stroke, where blood supply to the spine is disrupted or reduced. This can cause injury or damage to the soft tissue and spinal nerves, resulting in spine disorders.
  • Vitamin deficiency: a deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause a subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. 
  • Autoimmune diseases: autoimmune disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis (a type of spine arthritis) can cause the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together, resulting in a hunched back and stiffness. 
  • Multiple sclerosis: multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, can cause lesions to grow on the soft tissues of the spine, resulting in muscle weakness, numbness in the extremities, and an unbalanced gait. 
  • Syphilis: a type of sexually transmitted infection, syphilis can cause spine disorders if left untreated.
numb legs
Numbness in the extremities is a symptom of spine disorders.

What are the symptoms of spine disorders? 

Spine disorders can cause a range of symptoms that vary depending on the specific condition and location of the affected area. Some general symptoms of spine disorders include:

  • Stiffness or pain in the neck or back
  • Radiating pain down the arms or legs 
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness/spasms
  • Difficulty walking or maintaining balance

These symptoms may vary in severity from person to person and, if untreated, can lead to long-term disability. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms stated above, make an appointment with Chou Neuroscience Clinic today.

Are spine disorders painful? 

Yes, spinal disorders are often accompanied by chronic pain and discomfort that can make even simple tasks challenging, limiting participation in activities once enjoyed as well as a reduced quality of life.

Who is at risk of spine disorders in Singapore? 

Spinal cord disorders can affect anyone; however, various factors increase your risk of spine disorders. These are:

  • Obesity or being overweight: individuals who are obese or overweight are at an increased risk of developing spine disorders. The excess weight puts pressure on the spine, leading to spine disorders such as slipped or herniated discs.
  • Repetitive movements: repetitive actions such as lifting or carrying heavy things can put additional strain and pressure on the spine, leading to spinal cord disorders.
  • Incorrect lifting techniques: individuals who use wrong lifting techniques are more prone to spinal cord disorders.
  • Poor posture: poor posture, such as slouching and hunching, causes additional stress and pressure on the ligaments, muscles, and vertebrae that make up the spine, leading to some spine disorders.

spine disorders
Poor posture puts excess pressure and stress on the spine, leading to disorders or injuries.

How are spine disorders diagnosed? 

Diagnosing spinal disorders typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. 

  • Physical examination: your neurologist will physically examine your spine for signs of abnormalities. 
  • Imaging tests: imaging tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography scans (CT scans) may be used to identify abnormalities in the bones, soft tissues, discs, and nerves. 
  • Electromyography (EMG): an EMG measures the electrical activity of muscles and the response of nerves, helping to identify nerve damage or dysfunction.

These diagnostic tests and a thorough evaluation of your symptoms and medical history can help your neurologist accurately diagnose spine disorders and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Make an appointment with Chou Neuroscience Clinic for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

What are the treatment options for spine disorders in Singapore? 

Depending on the specific condition and severity of symptoms, there are various treatment options for spine disorders. In many cases, a combination of approaches may be recommended to manage symptoms effectively. Options include non-surgical and surgical interventions.

Non-surgical interventions include:

  • Pain medications: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. 
  • Steroid injections: injections such as lumbar epidural steroid injections can provide relief for spine pain. 
  • Physical therapy: physical therapy includes gentle exercises to improve strength, flexibility, posture, and overall function. 
  • Lifestyle modifications: lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a healthy weight, practising good posture, and using proper body mechanics when lifting or carrying objects can help improve symptoms. 
  • Surgical intervention: invasive procedures such as surgery may be considered if conservative approaches have failed to improve the disorder.

Frequently asked questions  

What is the most common spinal disorder?

The most common type of spinal cord disorders are herniated lumbar (lower back) discs and herniated cervical (neck) discs.

Can spine disorders heal by themselves?

This depends on the severity; some spine disorders can heal with non-surgical interventions such as lifestyle modifications and physical therapy. However, severe spine disorders such as those caused by invasive trauma will require surgical intervention.

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Copyright © 2023 Chou Neuroscience Clinic. All Rights Reserved