The spine represents a large part of the human body, and therefore, it can be subjected to a lot of trauma and suffer injury from time to time. The severity of these injuries can differ greatly, and in some cases, surgery may be required to fix the issue.
In this article, we will discuss what are the most commonly injured areas of the spine, focusing on the various conditions that can develop and their symptoms.
Why Is Spine Health So Important?
The spine is a crucial part of the human body as it provides support, stability, and flexibility to the entire body. It protects the spinal cord, which is responsible for sending signals from the brain to the rest of the body, and vice versa. Maintaining good spinal health is vital because the spine is involved in nearly every movement we make.
Here are 5 reasons why spine health is important:
- Pain Relief: Poor spine health can lead to chronic back pain, which can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Maintaining good spinal health can help prevent pain and discomfort.
- Posture: A healthy spine is necessary for maintaining proper posture. Poor posture can lead to imbalances in the muscles and cause pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and back.
- Injury Prevention: A strong and healthy spine can help prevent injuries during physical activities. It helps to absorb shock and distribute weight evenly, reducing the risk of injury.
- Maintaining Your Overall Health: Good spinal health is essential for overall health and well-being. The spinal cord plays a vital role in the central nervous system, and any damage to it can lead to severe health issues.
- Mobility and Flexibility: A healthy spine enables mobility and flexibility, allowing us to move freely and perform daily activities with ease.
What Are The Most Commonly Injured Areas Of The Spine?
The areas of the spine that are most prone to damage are the cervical (the neck) and lumbar (lower back) areas.
Cervical Area Of The Spine
The cervical part of the spine begins at the base of the skull and is made up of seven vertebrae that extend down the neck to the upper back. This area can be prone to injury, especially during car accidents when a muscle or ligament can undergo excessive strain (whiplash). Usually, surgery is not required for such an injury; however, there are many more conditions that could be more serious.
- Spondylolisthesis – This condition occurs when a vertebra slips forward and comes into contact with the adjacent vertebrae. This is often caused by genetics but repeated strain on the spine (from physical activities such as sports) can also be a reason.
- Herniated Disc – A herniated disc is when the soft tissue that sits in between vertebrae slips or bulges out of its outer casing, coming into contact with the nerves or spinal column. This can happen when the disc degenerates over time and can affect people in their advancing years, but it can also be caused by trauma. Herniated discs can usually heal with rest and gentle exercise, but in extreme cases, surgery may be required.
- A Fracture – A neck fracture is when one of the cervical vertebrae has been broken, usually the result of physical trauma. The severity of the fracture can depend on how forceful the impact was, or the angle of the break.
- A Dislocation – A cervical dislocation is when one of the cervical bones moves from its original position, impacting the stability of a person’s spine and causing pain. It can also affect the surrounding ligaments, causing inflammation.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – As well as vertebrae and ligaments, the spinal cord itself can also suffer damage from a trauma or injury. This can affect a range of motor functions and is very serious. In some instances, it can result in death, or leave a person requiring long-term respiratory assistance.
Lumbar Area Of The Spine
The lumbar area of the spine is located in the lower back and is the most prone to injury, especially strains on the ligaments, muscles, and tendons. The area encompasses all of the vertebrae from the cervical spine to the pelvic bone. Like the cervical spine, the lumbar spine is often impacted in a car accident or sports injury.
The lumbar spine can also be prone to annular tears when the outer layer of the vertebral disc is damaged – this can eventually lead to a herniated disc and is more common in older people.
The lumbar spine is prone to many of the conditions and injuries that can affect the cervical spine but there are also more conditions that are usually more lumbar-specific.
- Lumbar Stenosis – The spinal cord is surrounded by nerves that pass along the vertebrae via an area known as the spinal canal. This area can sometimes narrow, applying pressure to the spinal cord or the surrounding nerves – this is known as lumbar stenosis.
- It is most common in the lower back but can happen at any level of the spine. People who suffer from lumbar stenosis may have trouble walking even short distances and often need to lean forward to ease the pressure and pain. The pain can also travel down to the legs and cause numbness, and in severe cases, a person may suffer from a lack of bowel or bladder control.
- Sciatica – Sciatica is a pain that runs down the sciatic nerve, a nerve that extends down the back of the pelvis to the back of the thigh. It is the main nerve in a person’s leg and the largest nerve in the body.
Sciatica can be caused by a herniated disc, bad posture, a tumor, obesity, an abscess, a blood clot, or a range of nerve disorders. Conditions such as spondylolisthesis and stenosis can also lead to sciatica.
Spinal Surgery Options
Surgery is often only recommended in very extreme cases when treatment has proven ineffective. Severe spinal stenosis surgery, for example, would require a laminectomy when a small part of the vertebra (the lamina) is removed to create additional room in the spinal canal.
Thank you for reading, we hope this article has been useful and perhaps helped to determine whether your back pain requires medical attention.