In general terms, arthritis is a gradual breakdown or deterioration of the joint spaces in your musculoskeletal system. According to some experts, eight out of 10 Americans over the age of 55 suffer from one form of arthritis or another. In many cases, arthritis can become so painful and debilitating, simple tasks such as opening a jar or holding a pencil can be difficult.
Arthritis affects everyone in different ways. In some, joints in the spine, fingers, wrists, shoulders, knees-even toes-lose their normal shape and large amounts of fluid and debris fill the joint space.
There are many causes of arthritis. A major cause is simply age. Injury or suppressed or weakened immune systems are others. Some people have no choice-it is simply hereditary.
In most people, the body responds to the onset of arthritis by making extra bone. Your body makes this material in an attempt to shore up the degenerating joint. This additional material, or overgrowth, is called a bone spur or osteophyte. Bone spurs are typically found in the joint or disc spaces, where cartilage has begun to break down or deteriorate. Bone spurs sometimes block the spaces where nerve roots leave the spinal canal.
There are many symptoms of arthritis, including:
- Joint Pain
- Loss of muscle control
- Muscle spasms
- Stabbing pain in the extremities
Major types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The degenerative form of arthritis that mostly affects the elderly is called osteoarthritis. In some, osteoarthritis may affect the spine’s facet joints, making it extremely painful to bend or twist. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage to break down and away from the joints. Stripped of their protective material, the joints begin rubbing against each other, causing pain and impeding movement. This action further irritates the surrounding nerves. Advanced forms of spinal osteoarthritis lead to disc collapse and other problems.
An equally painful and destructive form of arthritis is called rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the joint tissues, leading to pain, weakness, low red blood cell count (anemia), and loss of appetite.
Physical therapy has been shown to help people with arthritis.
Physical therapy can be used to reduce pain, restore mobility, function, strength, and flexibility, and prevent unnecessary disability. Physical therapy can also help people suffering from arthritis to self-manage their pain, giving them a sense of confidence, empowerment, and hope.
Common exercises may include wall walking (which targets the shoulder joints) and the chair rise (which strengthens your legs and makes standing and sitting safer). Good examples of appropriate activities for those living with arthritis include aquatic exercises such as swimming, walking, bicycling, golf, and cross-country skiing.
In recent years, chiropractic medicine has shown some promising results in caring for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also commonly referred to as attention deficit disorder, or ADD.
While drugs, such as Ritalin, have demonstrated some effectiveness in treating ADD, many in the medical community are beginning to fear that it may be over-prescribed in this country. Simply throwing a pill at a problem often only addresses the symptoms-and not the root, or causes-of the problem.
Research has shown that posture can have a direct impact on motor activity in the brain. A correctly aligned spine, therefore, could benefit a hyperactive child. Nonsurgical and nonmedication treatments, including counseling on posture, nutrition and lifestyle changes, have been shown to have positive effects on ADD patients.
Back injuries are cited as the most common reason for absenteeism in the general workforce after the common cold. It is estimated that about 80 percent of adults experience a back injury in their lifetime, and about 10 percent will suffer a re-injury. Nationally, back injuries cost U.S. businesses approximately $30 billion per year, at an estimated average cost per claim of $24,000. If surgery is involved, the cost for claims increases significantly to $40,000 per injury or higher. One recent back injury involving surgery totaled $240,000.
Healthcare industry workers sustain nearly five times more back injuries than any other type of worker and are among six of the top 10 professions at greatest risk for back injury, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Back injuries are sustained in a myriad of ways and some people are more likely to develop back pain and injury than others. Some people incur back injuries from doing seemingly nothing; a simple twist or turn the wrong way in bed, for example, could cause a vertebra to go out of alignment. Others incur injury at home or one the job, while others sustain back injuries from traumatic events such as a vehicular accident.
Back injuries can be sustained on any number of structures in the spine. Although lower back injuries are the most prevalent, many people have sustained injuries to the thoracic (middle spine) or cervical (neck) portions of their spinal cord. Injuries can occur to the vertebrae, discs, nerves, joints, muscles, and other soft tissues. Once an injury has been incurred, other parts of the body-from the toes to the head-can also be affected.
Common types of back injuries include:
- Overuse injuries – These are the kinds of injuries that occur during the course of everyday activities, such as housework or exercise. Symptoms may include pain, muscle spasms, and stiffness.
- Acute or traumatic injuries – These injuries occur after an unexpected event, such as a fall, a sports injury, a job accident, or motor vehicle accident. If you think you have sustained a traumatic back injury, STAY CALM AND DO NOT MOVE until help arrives. It is very important to keep your back as immobile as possible following a traumatic injury as moving may worsen the injury.
Spinal fractures are one of the most serious kinds of back injuries. Many people survive spinal fractures and return to normal activities. Others who are less fortunate are left paralyzed.
If a fracture involves the spinal column but not the spinal cord, there is a good chance that long-term paralysis will be avoided. Fractures to any of the spine’s components, such as the vertebrae, joints, or discs, could affect the spinal cord and its more than 60 nerve roots.
Some people incur compression factures to the vertebrae. In these kinds of injuries, the vertebrae can be crushed. Compression fractures are more common in the thoracic (middle) and cervical (neck) portions of the spine, since the lumbar vertebrae are the largest and sturdiest. Other kinds of injuries, such as twisting or impact injuries, can cause a fracture to vertebrae or joints.
You may have incurred a serious back injury if you have:
- Back pain that follows a severe injury, such as a motor vehicle accident
- Been struck forcefully on top of the head or fall hard onto the buttocks
- Fallen from a height of 15 feet or more
- Incurred a direct blow to the spine with a moving object
- Incurred a sports-related injury
- Sustained a penetrating injury, such as a gunshot wound or stab wound
If you sustain a back injury and experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Numbness or tingling in the buttocks, genital area, or legs
- Fallen from a height of 15 feet or more
- Pain in the upper back that occurs with chest pain that is crushing, squeezing, or feels like a heavy weight on the chest or that occurs with any other symptoms of a heart attack
- Signs of shock
- Weakness in the legs
Most sprains and strain injuries to soft tissues, such as muscles, if treated properly with rest and ice/heat therapy, will diminish within two weeks. Many other kinds require expert medical attention. Consult with your physician about whether chiropractic care would help.
The act of birth is both a joyous and traumatic event. Few people realize how traumatic birthing can be on an infant’s spinal cord. Even under the best of circumstances with highly trained and competent physicians, a baby’s nervous system can incur damage while traveling through the birth canal. Often, this damage manifests itself in the form of mild “subluxations,” or misalignments of the tiny vertebrae.
An infant’s spine is a delicate, yet sophisticated system of muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, discs, a spinal cord, and nerves. When pressure is applied on a nerve in your spine, the nerve energy is interrupted, and sometimes this can profoundly affect the function of other systems or organs in your body.
Subluxations create pressure or irritation on the various nerves in the spine, and can cause a wide variety of problems in a newborn. Possible injuries including breathing problems, brain bleeding and swelling, spinal cord and brain stem injuries, and neurological deficits.
Some experts believe subluxations are encouraged during the birthing process by the position the mother is in when giving birth, as well as the manner in which the child is sometimes “pulled” by the head and neck from the birth canal.
Subluxations are generally not life-threatening, and many of us go through life with a mild subluxation. Left untreated, subluxations in later adolescent and adult life can cause a variety of problems, including pain, soreness, irregularity, and weakness. Subluxations also can contribute to a whole host of maladies such as immune system disorders, learning disabilities, headaches, and visual and hearing problems.
Infant subluxations also have been linked to immune system problems, learning disabilities, headaches, and visual and hearing problems.
As we get older, the discs and the joints of our spines and other bony structures undergo changes; some of these changes are degenerative in nature. While degeneration occurs even in the healthiest of people, it can be encouraged by a number of things such as poor nutrition, an injury, or bad posture.
Bone spurs are additional bone material, or overgrowths, and have been attributed to a wide variety of ailments. Also called osteophytes, bone spurs are manufactured by your body in response to a breakdown in existing bony structures. Sometimes, bone spurs can exert pressure on nerves, and this leads to pain.
In people with arthritis, for example, bone spurs develop in the joint or disc spaces, where cartilage has begun to break down or deteriorate. Bone spurs sometimes block the spaces where nerve roots leave the spinal canal.
Bone spurs in the spine can be particularly painful. One area where bone spurs seem to be prevalent is in the disc spaces between vertebrae. As the discs and their attached ligaments begin to wear down, the body begins to thicken the ligaments. Over time, the ligaments can calcify and shed small fragments. The presence of this additional material in the spine can cause compression and pain.
Most of us suffer from subtle degeneration in our bone structures over a lifetime. It is an unpleasant, yet unavoidable result of the aging process. Likewise, many of us can develop bone spurs in one part of our body or another, and not even know they exist. Some of us, however, are not so fortunate. Osteophytes can cause pain in the neck and back, as well as radiating type pains through the extremities such as the arms and legs.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive and sometimes painful joint disorder caused by a compression of the median nerve of your hand. The compression causes swelling, which exerts pressure on the nerves.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably the most common source of wrist pain. Symptoms may include soreness, numbness or tingling, or a burning sensation. Some people who develop carpel tunnel find it difficult and painful to rotate their wrist, or move their hand up or down or from side to side.
Carpal tunnel is more common among people who have repetitive wrist movements, such as sewing, painting, and writing; using a computer; and playing racquetball or handball. Diabetes, arthritis, pregnancy, and obesity have also been linked with carpal tunnel as well.
Many of us have grown up hearing such terms as “slipped disc,” or “herniated disc.” But few people outside the medical profession truly understand how critical their spinal discs are. Without discs, our vertebrae would grind against each other, our spines collapsing under the strain.
A whole host of things can go wrong with a vertebral disc over a lifetime. A traumatic injury can crush or misplace a disc. An excessive pulling or lifting accident at home or on the job can force a disc out of position. And for some of us, simply getting older can cause a disc to deteriorate. This is usually called degenerative disc disease.
First, what exactly is a disc?
Vertebral discs are the shock absorbers that are found between vertebral bodies. Each disc is essentially sandwiched between two vertebrae supported by ligaments. Composed of collagen, discs have a tough outer core and a soft inner core. When you are born, these discs are mostly water. As you get older, the discs slowly lose their water content and get harder. As they dehydrate over time, your discs provide less of that soft and cushy support they provided when they were new. Because they have no blood supply and few nerve endings, discs are unable to repair themselves. Disc degeneration can be painful in later years; in some cases, the inner core of the discs leak proteins that can inflame the nerve roots.
Common disc disorders
Disc disorders are generally classified as contained discs or noncontained discs. Contained discs are discs that are essentially intact, but protruding where they do not belong. Noncontained discs are ruptured discs that also may protrude into another area of the spine, leaking their fluid and causing havoc.
A common contained disc disorder is a bulging disc. Bulging discs may push into the spinal canal. A common noncontained disc disorder is a herniated disc, which has ruptured, usually at its weakest point. The fluid inside herniated discs is an irritant to the delicate soft tissues of the spinal cord, none the least being the nerves. Nerves that have become exposed to this fluid often swell in response. In some cases, parts of a herniated disc’s tough outer shell can break off into the spinal canal, causing further irritation.
The vast majority of herniated discs occur in the lower back or lumbar region. When a lumbar herniated disc presses on a nerve root, it can cause radiating pain, numbness and weakness in other areas of the body, including the buttocks, leg, ankles and toes. Ironically, in many cases, a person with a herniated disc will not feel back or neck pain.
Cervical, or neck, discs that have herniated can cause radiating pain and numbness down an arm and into the wrist and hand. Other types of symptoms include shoulder pain and numbness, as well as muscle and reflex weakness.
Treatments may include spinal adjustment or manipulation, and therapies such as electrotherapy and ice/heat therapy.
Specific techniques for treating disc injury include:
- Flexion-distraction – The patient lies on a specialized table that gently stretches the spine, allowing the chiropractor to pinpoint the affected disc while slightly flexing the spine. These procedures gently move the disc away from an affected nerve, slowing or eliminating inflammation, and pain.
- Pelvic blocking – This method employs cushioned wedges that are placed under each side of the hips. The chiropractor gently maneuvers the pelvic area, allowing gravity to pull the disc away from the affected nerve.
Patients whose problems were not answered by surgery sometimes call upon chiropractors for help. It is unfortunate they did not consult with a chiropractor before surgery to determine whether their pain or other symptoms would be addressed without drugs or surgical intervention.
That said, as many as 40 percent of the 200,000 people who have lower back surgery each year do not attain their desired outcome. Some of them are even in worse condition following surgery.
This condition is what’s referred to as “failed back surgery syndrome,” a general term for a host of problems that may be related to the surgery, but also other factors such as poor body mechanics, or medication problems.
People with failed back surgery syndrome often complain about unrelenting pain or physical impairment.
Chronic headaches and migraines afflict many Americans. The severity of pain can go from mild and intermittent to episodes of debilitating throbbing, unrelenting agony, as well as nausea. Relief comes from a variety of means, including over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs, rest, and ice/heat packs on the forehead or neck.
Sources of headaches include, but are not limited to, certain kinds of foods, sounds and excessive noise or bright lights, changes in blood sugar, and even too much exercise.
Some recent studies have shown that patients suffering from chronic headaches and migraines may benefit more from long-term chiropractic care than drug therapy alone.
For headaches that originate in the cervical, or neck, area, chiropractic treatment, such as spinal manipulation, has been shown to be quite effective. A 2001 Duke University study, for example, found that spinal manipulation provided relief for patients with headaches that originate in the neck, and resulted in fewer side effects than medication. Researchers in that study concluded that such treatments as relaxation training, thermal biofeedback combined with relaxation training, electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and to a lesser degree, acupuncture, are all modestly effective in treating migraine headaches.
Close to 15 percent of people who visit a chiropractor do so to seek relief for pain from chronic headaches or migraines, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Some recent studies have shown that patients suffering from chronic headaches and migraines may benefit more from long-term chiropractic care than drug therapy alone.
For headaches that originate in the cervical ( neck) area, chiropractic treatment such as spinal manipulation has been shown to be quite effective. A 2001 Duke University study, for example, found that spinal manipulation provided relief for patients with headaches that originate in the neck, and resulted in fewer side effects than medication. Researchers in that study concluded that such treatments as relaxation training, thermal biofeedback combined with electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapy, nutritional changes, and to a lesser degree, acupuncture, are all modestly effective in treating migraine headaches.
The bony structures that allow your back and neck to easily move in different directions are called “facet joints.” Facet joints provide about one-fifth of your lower back and neck’s twisting stability. Facet joints are located in pairs at each vertebral level (except for the top vertebrae) down your spinal cord. The surfaces of facet joints are coated with slippery cartilage, allowing them to glide freely as you move. Each joint is encased in a capsule that generates lubricant for the joint while it moves.
When joints are injured in a traumatic event, or degenerate over time because of the aging process or disease, a wide variety of problems-and pain-often result.
Facet joint syndrome develops when the cartilage in joints wears thin. Your body begins producing material (called bone spurs) to shore up the cartilage. This material can calcify, or harden, causing stiffness in the joint. In some cases, facet joint syndrome can contribute to joint inflammation, muscle spasms, and later osteoarthritis. Advanced cases of facet joint problems are sometimes referred to as degenerative spondylolisthesis, a condition in which joints slip forward.
Facet joint disorders in the lower back can cause stiffness, and make it difficult to stand straight or get out of a chair. Facet joint disorders in the cervical, or neck, region can cause headaches and difficulty rotating the head.
A common joint disorder involves the sacroiliac joint, which links the bottom of the spine with pelvic bone. This joint endures a lot of pressure and absorbs the shocks from the upper body. While it is a very strong and mostly stationary joint, the sacroiliac joint can become damaged or impaired. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can mimic many of the symptoms of herniated lumbar disc. People with sacroiliac joint dysfunction typically complain of pain on one side of their lower back or buttocks. The pain can sometimes shoot down one or leg or both, sometimes extending all the way down to the foot.
Our spine includes an incredibly complex network of nerves that originate in your brain, coursing their way downward through the spinal column and exiting at more than 60 different locations from the base of your skull all the way to the top of your lower back.
There are almost limitless ways for nerves to become damaged in your spinal column and other bony structures of your body such as your wrists, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.
A general term for nerve disorders in the spine is “compressive neuropathy,” which occurs when nerves in the spine are compressed. The nerves that exit the spinal canal become trapped, compressed, and swollen. A compressive neuropathy may cause pain to radiate from your buttocks all the way down to your ankles and toes.
Subluxations (misalignments in the vertebrae), genetic disorders, diseases such as osteoarthritis, and traumatic injuries are all leading causes of spinal nerve disorders. Bone spurs or herniated, ruptured or bulging vertebral discs, can also compress and damage a nerve.
Symptoms of nerve damage range from mild cases of numbness or weakness to severe cases of radiating or stabbing pain, fatigue, loss of motor control, difficulty walking, sitting or standing, and in the extreme, paralysis.
Moreover, if nerves in your spine become permanently damaged, you may experience long-term adverse health effects in other systems and organs in your body. A pinched or damaged nerve in your spine may lead to blurred vision or headaches, loss of hearing, slurred speech, and bowel and bladder problems, to name a few.
Here’s a look at some common nerve disorders:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Nerves also can become pinched in the carpal tunnel, a small area inside the wrist that proves a passage for finger flexor tendons and the median nerve.
- Foraminal stenosis. A form of compressive neuropathy, foraminal stenosis is a nerve impingement in the lower back. Because lumbar stenosis almost always impinges the sciatic nerve, one or both of the legs can also be affected. Radiating pain or numbness in the legs, and sometimes the ankles, feet and toes, is common.
- Peripheral neuropathy. A form of nerve degeneration that mainly affects the arms, hands, legs, and feet, peripheral neuropathy has been associated with poor nutrition and diabetes. Because peripheral neuropathy can cause nerve endings to deaden, people with this condition often report losing feeling in their fingertips and toes.
- Sciatica. Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve is impaired. A bundle, or cable, of small nerves travels down the spine and into the pelvis area, where they come together to form the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve then branches off into each lower extremity, through the buttock and into the tops of the legs. People who have sciatica often complain of numbness or tingling in the feet or toes, or sharp, stabbing pains in the buttocks or shooting down the backs of their legs.
- Spinal infections, including spinal meningitis. While rare, spinal infections have been linked to nerve disorders. As in any infection, the affected area of the spine may become swollen, causing pressure on spinal nerves. In addition, the infection, left untreated, could lead to an abscess and permanently damage soft tissues and nerve cells.
- Piriformis syndrome. This is a condition caused by the sciatic nerve getting pinched as it exits the spinal column. (Sometimes, it can mimic the symptoms of sciatica.) The pinching is sometimes caused by muscles spasms. Piriformis syndrome sometimes causes pain along the back of the thigh to the knee, or loss of feeling in the soles of the feet.
Osteoporosis is a gradual disintegration of bone and it can have a devastating impact on the joints and vertebrae of your spine.
Osteoporosis causes the loss of mass and density in bones, making them highly susceptible to fractures. If the bones in your spine become weak and spongy, your spine gradually compresses, sometimes impinging nerves and causing pain and other problems. Additionally, the spinal compression affects internal organs, leading to other problems. People with advanced osteoporosis sometimes take on a hunchback shape.
Osteoporosis is caused by a deficiency of calcium in the body. Smoking and alcohol consumption both interfere with calcium absorption. Other factors, such as stress, diabetes, menopause, lack of exercise, and even overuse of laxatives, have been associated with osteoporosis.
Women who smoke are at a significantly higher risk of having osteoporosis than any other demographic because long-term smoking causes a decrease in the body’s estrogen levels.
Spinal osteoporosis is hard to spot in its early stages. In advanced stages, people complain of chronic pain, loss of mobility, and shorter or humped over stature.
A hunchback appearance of the spine may be a sign of Scheuermann’s disease, a condition caused by an enlargement or deformity of the roundback portion of the thoracic spine.
People with Scheuermann’s disease have wedge-shaped vertebrae in their upper spine, which is caused by the front of the upper spine not developing as quickly as the back of the spine.
The wedge-shaped vertebrae cause the upper spine to arch downward.
Technically, Scheuermann’s disease is not a disease at all but rather, a condition, or abnormality in the vertebrae.
Scoliosis is a medical term that refers to spinal curvatures. Scoliosis is a condition that almost always begins in early childhood. And it is exceedingly rare. In fact, only about 5 out of 1,000 American children usually develop curved spines enough to warrant treatment. Scoliosis affects only 1 percent of the world’s population.
In normal children, the spinal column grows in a straight line from the neck down to the tailbone. Curved spines have an abnormal sideways bend. In other words, looking at the back from behind, the spine of a child with scoliosis will curve to the left or right, instead of going straight down. If a child with scoliosis is not treated for the condition, it could later cause chronic pain, a deformed spine, poor posture, and in some cases, heart, lung or gastrointestinal problems.
A curved spine is one that fails to develop normal front to back arches, causing undue weight to be carried on the vertebral discs. If a disc or vertebra shifts to one side or another, the spine may follow.
There are many causes of scoliosis. The birth event, or even daily activities, may cause vertebrae to become misaligned, a condition called subluxation. In some cases, scoliosis can be inherited as a result of a short leg or pelvic distortion. Some early childhood diseases have also been linked as possible contributors to scoliosis. Some think children are forced to walk at too early an age before their spines fully develop.
Scoliosis rarely has symptoms associated with it. Most children with curved spines do not complain of pain. So it is important to have your child examined by a medical professional if you suspect he or she has a curved spine.
Chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, can be an effective means to stem further spine curvature, and in some cases, even reverse the damage. In addition, back braces, which have become very technologically advanced and lightweight, may assist the spine in returning to its normal, straight position. Only about 10 percent of those with scoliosis eventually require surgical treatment.
Mechanical manipulation can offer some relief for people suffering from sleep apnea. Manipulation may improve the function of the muscles in your chest wall, and thus, help you breathe more easily and boost the oxygenation of your blood during sleep. In addition, manipulation can lower pain and restlessness and improve the reflexes of your spinal cord that control blood flow
Though there is no such thing as a “safe” sport, highly competitive sports, such as football, weightlifting, gymnastics, and wrestling, pose particularly higher risks of injuries, especially among children.
According to experts, as much as 20 percent of all sports-related injuries involve the lower back or neck. Running and weightlifting, and other sports that involve repetitive impact, expose children to a high risk for lumbar (lower back) injuries. Contact sports, such as soccer and football, expose the cervical spine, or neck, to injury. More than one-third of all high school football players sustain some type of injury. Soccer participants are easy candidates for mild to severe head traumas, neck injuries, cervical spine damage, headache, neck pain, dizziness, irritability, and insomnia. Heading the ball, the act of using the head to re-direct the soccer ball, has been linked with cervical injuries in children and adults. The trampoline and gymnastics also present significant risks for spinal cord injuries from unexpected and brute falls or contact with hard surfaces.
Here’s a look at some of the other common injuries by sport:
- Bicycling – Poor posture can greatly increase your risks of a back injury during cycling. When riding a bike, your lower back is constantly flexing sideways and up and down. Upper back injuries can involve the flexing of the neck. And the bumps and jars incurred on the road during cycling can wreak havoc and possible compression injuries to your spine.
- Golf – Common injuries incurred during the sport of golf usually involve muscle sprains and strains to the lower back.
- Running/jogging – Running and jogging puts a great deal of stress on your back, since the constant pounding against a hard surface can jar, and possibly compress, structures such as vertebrae, joints, and discs.
- Skiing – Skiing involves a great deal of twisting and turning motions, as well as jarring landings, all of which can cause muscle sprains and strains and in some cases, minor spinal fractures.
- Swimming – Swimmers are known to incur lower back injuries. Motions such as the crawl or breaststroke can cause the lumbar region to be hyperextended. If the swimmer is not properly conditioned or warmed up, the hyperextension sometimes doesn’t subside.
- Tennis – “Tennis elbow” is a layman’s term for pain on the lateral, or outside part of the elbow, on or near the bony protrusion. Tennis elbow is caused when the tendon from the elbow bone tears or is ruptured. It is no surprise that professional tennis players can become inflicted with this with all of the stress and strain they place on the joint during play. In addition, tennis players are in constant motion, and the repeated twisting and trunk rotations can cause injuries. Shoulder injuries and turned ankles and knees also are common. The act of serving the ball also has been shown to hyperextend the lower back, and possibly compress discs.
- Weight lifting/body building – Body builders are at a significant risk for a host of serious back, shoulder, neck and knee injuries. Resistance training has been known to cause muscle sprains and strains, ligament and tendon injuries, and in some cases, stress fractures (also called spondylolysis). Older people seem to be at a higher risk since their bones-and discs-are more brittle.
In a normal healthy spine, bundles of nerves exit the spinal column at dozens of tiny locations from the base of the skull to the top of the lower back. When these openings become blocked or narrowed, nerves can become impinged, leading to a condition called stenosis.
The vast majority of cases of spinal stenosis occur in the lower back. Lumbar spinal stenosis can severely restrict daily activity. Because lumbar stenosis almost always impinges the sciatic nerve, one or both of the legs can also be affected. Radiating pain or numbness in the legs, and sometimes the ankles, feet and toes, is common.
What causes changes in these openings? A lot of things. One major cause is the process of aging. As joints and ligaments undergo wear and tear, they can shift partially into these spaces. In fact, stenosis is most common in people in their 50’s and beyond.
Stenosis also has can be inherited or acquired at birth. In rare cases, synovial cysts, which develop as a result of degeneration in the facet joint in the lumbar spine, have been linked to spinal stenosis, or at least mimic many of the symptoms of spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis include:
- Burning, tingling, or shooting pain in the buttocks or extremities
- Diminished pain in the extremities when bending forward or sitting (which relieves the pressure on the nerve by temporarily opening the vertebral space)
Cervical stenosis with myelopathy is a type of stenosis that affects the long tracts of nerves inside the spinal cord.
Symptoms of myelopathy include:
- Arm pain
- Heavy feeling in the legs
- Inability to walk at a fast pace
- Loss of fine motor skills
- Shooting arm and leg pain, particularly when bending the head forward
Rest and restricted activity, as well as over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin and analgesics, and corticosteroid injections, have been known to provide temporary relief of the pain associated with stenosis. Physical therapy and back braces have also shown to be somewhat effective.
A thorough chiropractic examination will provide you with information about all of the available nonsurgical, nonmedication options.
Whiplash is probably one of the most misunderstood and misaligned kinds of injuries; people involved in automobile accidents often suspect they have whiplash if they feel any kind of soreness in their neck. This is not to diminish the fact that whiplash is quite a common-and potentially serious-kind of injury incurred in automobile collisions.
What is whiplash? Whiplash is an injury to the cervical spine, or neck, and occurs when the muscles and other soft tissues are hyperextended or hyperflexed.
Most instances of whiplash occur during a front- or rear-end automobile collision. The force of the vehicle being struck or striking another object are quite powerful, and can cause the neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons to twist and turn with incredible, unnatural force. These tissues, which are stretched far beyond their natural limits, can become torn and in some cases, permanently damaged. In addition, vertebral discs in the cervical spine can bulge, tear, and rupture.
Symptoms of whiplash may include one or more of the following:
- Blurred vision or dizziness
- Ear ringing
- General stiffness
- Headaches, especially behind the eyes
- Numbness, or burning, piercing and/or radiating pain in the neck, jaw, face, shoulders (and between the shoulder blades), and arms, which is usually a sign of a muscle or ligament tear
- Pain in any of the extremities
- Sharp pains when moving an extremity such as an arm or finger (a possible sign of disc damage)
- Swallowing difficulty
Many people who incur whiplash are treated with a device called a cervical collar, a soft cushion that envelopes the neck and keeps the weight of the head from applying undue pressure to damaged tissues during the healing process.