The vertebrae in the spine are the most important bones in the body. These relatively small structures interlock with one another to keep the spine stable but remain flexible enough to allow us to lean forward, backward, side to side and to pivot on an axis. However, as a result of this flexibility, the vertebrae are also prone to problems, particularly at the lumbar spine segment in the lower back. This is because the lumbar spine (lower back) is largely responsible for supporting the weight of the body. As these vertebrae wear down due to age and weight gain, a number of painful symptoms and loss of mobility can occur.
Some of the most common symptoms of deteriorated vertebrae include pain in the neck or back, radiating pain in the local extremity, numbness and tingling in the extremity, and limited movement and mobility of the spine. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek advice from your physician to determine the cause of your pain. Many times, simple conservative therapies like lifestyle changes and physical therapy are effective in treating mild degenerative spine conditions.
Common causes of back pain
The back vertebrae in the thoracic spine (middle back) and lumbar spine (lower back) essentially serve two main purposes: supporting the rib cage in the torso and maintaining flexibility. To accomplish this, the thoracic back vertebrae are largely stable and fused to the ribs, while the lumbar spine vertebrae are larger and more mobile. Because of the increased mobility, the lumbar spine is much more susceptible to damage than the thoracic spine, which is why nearly everyone has to deal with some degree of lower back pain at some point in life. This pain and stiffness is further exacerbated as we grow older, our discs wear down and joints become stricken with arthritis.
In fact, a wide variety of sources can contribute to back vertebrae pain, including:
- Spinal stenosis — the narrowing of the spinal canal
- Bone spurs
- Foraminal stenosis — the narrowing of the canal where nerve roots branch off the spinal cord
- Herniated or bulging discs
- And more
A physician can determine the cause of your back pain by ordering an MRI test or CT scan to view the anatomy of your spine and diagnose where and why a component of the spine is damaged and compressing a local nerve root in the spinal canal. Once this is determined, your physician can help you move forward with a treatment.
If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned conditions, you are probably considering your treatment options. In most cases, you can sufficiently manage your pain with conservative treatment over several weeks. Specifically, painkillers, strengthening exercises and heat therapy are all effective methods.
However, if these treatments don’t offer any lasting pain relief, and you’re still experiencing problems with one of your back vertebrae, you should consult one of our spine specialists at Laser Spine Institute. Our team of surgeons specializes in the highly technical field of minimally invasive spine surgery. These advanced outpatient spine procedures help alleviate the sources of pain without the uncertainty of traditional open back surgery. To learn more about the causes of back vertebrae problems and the treatment options available to you, contact Laser Spine Institute today.