What do herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, cauda equina syndrome, sciatica, poor posture, neck pain, thoracic pain and low back pain have in common? If you guessed that they can all be linked to spinal compression, then you are correct.
Here we define spinal compression as the process where the spinal column (bony structure that holds our upper body upright and is made out of several segments called vertebrae, which are stacked upon one another) become squashed and shorter in length.
It is not to be mistaken with spinal cord compression which refers to the pinching, or compression of the spinal cord (which is an extension of the central nervous system). Although in some cases spinal compression can impinge on the spinal cord, it is not the only structure in the spine that can get affected by the shortening of the spine.
What is the link between spinal compression and spinal disorders?
Spinal compression develops gradually with the passage of time and it is mostly caused by aging and repeated strain placed on our backs from daily activities, as well as excessive weight. It can lead to various spinal problems, including herniated discs, pinched nerves, and spinal stenosis, among many others.
When the spinal column becomes compressed, it leads to diminished space for other structures within the spine, such as various bundles of nerves, spinal discs and also the spinal canal. This can cause some of these spinal structures to rub and impinge on each other.
Symptoms of spinal compression may vary depending on the secondary condition that it causes, apart from one feature, and that is the presence of pain, be it neck or back pain.
For example, when compression takes place within the lumbar spine, there is a chance that the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, which leads to sciatica. The main symptom of sciatica is pain in the lower back, which can extend to the back of the legs. It can occur on one side or bilaterally.
Spinal discs are situated between each vertebra and act as a cushioning between these bone segments. When the spine becomes compressed, additional pressure is placed on these discs, which can cause the inner gel-like content to burst through the protective outer shell due to said pressure on the spinal discs.
Depending on the region where the disc herniation occurs, the pain can manifest itself either in the lower back, middle back, or neck.
When the back becomes compressed, some structures within the back may move out of their usual space and shift into other available empty places along the spine. That includes the spinal canal, where the spinal cord and nerve roots may reside. As a result of these structures impinging into the spinal canal, spinal stenosis forms.
Thus, the spinal canal is narrowed, leaving less space for the spinal cord and nerve roots, leading to an increased chance of developing spinal cord compression. However, this can also be caused by the presence of bone spurs and is not always caused by compression of the vertebrae.
Compression of the spinal cord is a serious condition and can cause severe impairment to the sufferer as the symptoms of spinal cord compression can be quite disabling, as they may include the loss of bladder and bowel control, among other issues.
Apart from pain, spinal stenosis sufferers may experience weakness in the back or neck, as well as numbness, tingling and burning sensations along the back, neck or even legs. One of the more well-known issues caused by spinal stenosis is that of walking problems. In some people it may lead to balancing difficulties.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Before any treatment method is employed, it is recommended that one seeks medical advice to obtain a diagnosis from a qualified medical specialist. Obtaining a diagnosis usually starts with the doctor taking a history and performing a medical examination.
Further imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI scan may be required if the physical examination results are not conclusive and also to rule out possible serious conditions that may necessitate surgical treatments, such as compression fractures or tumours.
On the other hand, the problem with treating spinal disorders such as sciatica, spinal stenosis, disc herniation and other issues is that usually only the symptoms are addressed, rather than the root cause, which is spinal compression.
Steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medication, for example, relieve back pain in the short-term, but do not correct the problem at hand.
However, in this case, it is best to relieve pressure that has been placed on the spine and decompress the back, which will allow for all the symptoms a sufferer of sciatica or disc herniation feels to fade as a result.
In some cases, this requires a back pain sufferer to make necessary lifestyle changes that allow for a decrease in the load carried by the spine. That includes changes such as weight loss or management, as excessive weight can add additional strain on the back, as well as posture correction, exercise to strengthen weak muscles, and avoiding activities that may injure our backs.
Therefore, approaches that focus on spinal mobilisation and decompression, such as physical therapy and the use of spinal decompression devices, such as the Backrack, may prove more useful in alleviating the symptoms a person feels and also in preventing back pain from returning in the future.
Spinal Backrack Technology for Effective Pain Relief
Author: Spinal Backrack