Lumbar Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Your lumbar spine (low back) is made up of five individual vertebra stacked on top of a bone called the sacrum. To allow for flexibility and movement, there is a cushion or “disc” in between each level. As we age, our discs and joints can wear and become thinner from a process called arthritis. This leads to additional changes, including loosening of the ligaments that hold your vertebra in place.

The term “degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis” means that one of your vertebra has shifted forward on top of the one below as a result of arthritis and loosening ligaments. The condition usually comes on after age 50 and affects women six times more frequently than men. Degenerative spondylolisthesis occurs most commonly at your second lowest spinal level. (L4-5)

Sometimes, spondylolisthesis develops silently, but most patients report episodes of back pain that have occurred for many years. Patients often report increased pain when standing or when rising from a sitting position. Pain tends to increase throughout the day. If your nerve openings have become narrowed, the nerves may be pinched, and you may experience pain radiating into your legs. Leg symptoms that shift from side to side are characteristic of degenerative spondylolisthesis. Leg pain and tingling are fairly common, but be sure to tell your doctor if you notice more significant symptoms, like leg numbness, heaviness, weakness, loss of bowel or bladder function, or impotence.

Studies have shown no advantage for surgery over conservative care for most cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis. Approximately one-third of patients will experience progression of symptoms over time, and only 10-15% will ever need surgery to correct the problem. Fortunately, the majority of patients will benefit from treatment and exercises to help stabilize their spine.

You will need to perform your exercises consistently for sustained improvement. You should also try to add some type of aerobic exercise to your daily routine. Stationary cycling is a very good choice, and other options include water walking and swimming. Avoid wearing high heels. You may find some benefit for your arthritic symptoms by taking 1500mg of Glucosamine Sulfate each day. Using a hot pack for 10-15 minutes directly over your lower back may provide some benefit.

A Modern Spine Ailment

Some great information from Spine-Health.com and Dr. Steven Shoshany DC

 

Text neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.

Text Neck

Using a mobile device often can lead to poor posture and symptoms of text neck.
Watch:
Text Neck Treatment Video<spanclass=”div-video-link”></spanclass=”div-video-link”>

And it seems increasingly common. Recently, a patient came in to my practice complaining of severe upper back pain. He woke up and was experiencing severe, acute, upper back muscle strain. I told him I believe the pain is due to the hours he was spending hunched over his cell phone. Diagnosis: Text neck.

See All About Upper Back Pain

Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. For years, we’ve all looked down to read. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it for much longer periods. It is especially concerning because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain.

See Cervical Spine Anatomy and Neck Pain

What are the symptoms associated with text neck?

Text neck most commonly causes neck pain and soreness. In addition, looking down at your cell phone too much each day can lead to:

    • Upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms.
    • Shoulder pain and tightness, possibly resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm.
    • If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and possibly neurological symptoms can radiate down your arm and into your hand.

See What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

I believe, as some studies suggest, text neck may possibly lead to chronic problems due to early onset of arthritis in the neck.

See Facet Joint Osteoarthritis

 

How common is text neck?

A recent study shows that 79% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time—with only 2 hours of their waking day spent without their cell phone on hand.1

See Causes of Upper Back Pain

How is text neck treated?

First, prevention is key. Here are several pieces of advice for preventing the development or advancement of text neck:

    • Hold your cell phone at eye level as much as possible. The same holds true for all screens—laptops and tablets should also be positioned so the screen is at eye level and you don’t have to bend your head forward or look down to view it.

See Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

    • Take frequent breaks from your phone and laptop throughout the day. For example, set a timer or alarm that reminds you to get up and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes.
    • If you work in an office, make sure your screen is set up so that when you look at it you are looking forward, with your head positioned squarely in line with your shoulders and spine.

See Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

The bottom line is to avoid looking down with your head bent forward for extended periods throughout the day. Spend a whole day being mindful of your posture—is your head bent forward when you drive? When you watch TV? Any prolonged period when your head is looking down is a time when you are putting excessive strain on your neck.

See Office Chair, Posture, and Driving Ergonomics

Text Neck

Keeping the neck straight and your phone at eye level can help prevent text neck.
Watch:
Neck Strains and Sprains Video

Next, rehabilitation is important.

    • Many people don’t know this, but you need to have strong core muscles—the abdominal and lower back muscles—to support your upper body, including your neck. Your core muscles usually do not get enough exercise during normal daily activities, so you need to do specific exercises to target these muscles.

See Core Body Strength Exercises

    • You also need strong and flexible muscles the neck to minimize strain on your cervical spine and help support the weight of your head. Again, your neck will not get sufficient stretching and strengthening during normal daily activities, so it is best to learn specific neck exercises with the help of a health professional.

See Neck Stretches

Some people will also benefit from a more comprehensive treatment plan, such as a combination of manual adjustments, massage therapy, and cold laser therapy.

Learn more:

 

https://www.spine-health.com/blog/modern-spine-ailment-text-neck

Lumbar Spondylolisthesis

Your spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae all stacked on top of each other. The lowest five vertebrae are referred to as your lumbar spine. Each vertebra has two basic components: the “body” and the “arch.” You can envision this as a coffee mug lying on its side. The cup would represent the vertebral body, and the handle would represent the arch. The spinal cord travels through each of

the vertebral arches on its way from your brain to your tailbone. The term “lumbar isthmic spondylolisthesis” describes a condition where your arch has broken free from its anchor on the vertebral body, allowing the vertebral body to slide forward. Lumbar spondylolisthesis typically affects the lowest lumbar vertebra, L5, or occasionally the second lowest, L4.

The condition is sometimes caused by trauma, but more often follows a “stress fracture” involving the arch of the vertebra. This break and slippage is thought to result from repetitive movements, especially hyperextension (arching back) and rotation. The break usually happens during childhood but does not always cause symptoms when it occurs. Many times, the condition will lie dormant until later in life. Lumbar spondylolisthesis is present in six to seven percent of the population and affects males twice as often as females. The problem is more common in those who participate in sports. Some sports predispose children to this “break and slip”. Athletes who participate in gymnastics, rowing, diving, football, wrestling, weight lifting, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and track & field throwing sports (i.e. discus, shot put, etc) are at greatest risk.

The pain usually starts in your back but may radiate into your buttock or thigh. Your pain usually intensifies with standing upright for prolonged periods of time or leaning backwards, especially during heavy activity. Some women report increased symptoms during the later stages of pregnancy. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice pain, numbness or tingling in your groin, a loss of bowel or bladder function, fever, night sweats, pain extending beyond your knee, or weakness in your legs.

Your doctor will “grade” your spondylolisthesis based on the percent of the vertebral body that has slipped forward. Your doctor will try to determine if your spondylolisthesis is “active”, meaning a recent break or “inactive”, referring to a long-standing problem. If your doctor has determined that your spondylolisthesis is new and has a chance of worsening, you may need to stop certain activities or sports for a period of time until your fracture heals. Sometimes a lumbar brace is used to help you recover more quickly. Patients with a long-standing “inactive” spondylolisthesis may benefit from a combination of treatments including stretching and strengthening. You should limit leaning backwards or sleeping on your stomach. Females should avoid wearing high heels.

Lumbar Spondylo-what?

Your spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae, all stacked on top of each other. The lowest five vertebrae are referred to as your lumbar spine. Each vertebra has two basic components- the “body” and the “arch.” You can envision this as a coffee mug lying on its side. The cup would represent the vertebral body, and the handle would represent the arch. The spinal cord travels through each of the vertebral arches on its way from your brain to your tailbone.

The term lumbar spondylysis describes a condition where a part of the arch breaks free from its anchor site on the vertebral body. This condition most commonly occurs during adolescence while bones are hardening. When we are young our bones have taken shape but they have not yet become hardened. Think of this as a clay coffee mug that has not yet been fired in the kiln. During adolescence, our bones transform from this softer clay to a more brittle bone.

The condition is sometimes caused by trauma but more often is a “stress fracture” to the arch of the vertebra. This defect is thought to result from repetitive movements, especially hyperextension and rotation. The condition is more common in people who were born with a small or weak arch- think of a coffee mug handle with a very thin brittle attachment.

Lumbar spondylolysis usually affects the lowest lumbar vertebra- L5, or occasionally L4. Most patients are 10-15 years of age when they are diagnosed with the condition, although sometimes symptoms do not present until adulthood. It is more common in those who participate in sports. Some sports predispose children to this problem. Athletes who participate in diving, wrestling, weight lifting, track, football and gymnastics have the highest incidence of spondylolysis.

The pain usually starts in your back but may radiate into your buttock or thigh. Your pain usually intensifies with standing upright for prolonged periods of time or leaning backwards. You should limit movements that involve hyperextension, like leaning backwards. Females should avoid wearing high heels.

Your doctor likely performed x-rays or an MRI to make the diagnosis of spondylolysis. If your doctor has determined that your spondylolysis is new and has a chance of worsening, you may need to stop certain activities or sports for a period of time until your fracture heals. Sometimes a lumbar brace is used to help you recover more quickly.

Thumb/Wrist pain from De Quervain’s Disease…..

Tendons are strong, fibrous bands of tissue connecting muscles to bones. Some tendons are covered by a protective, lubricated insulation called a “synovial sheath.” The two tendons on the thumb-side of your wrist that extend and abduct your thumb into a “hitchhiker” position are covered by a sheath. Normally, these tendons move freely within this covering, much like a sword sliding through a sheath.

If these tendons and sheaths are forced to repetitively rub against the bones of your wrist, they can become painfully swollen. This condition is called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

The pain of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis may begin abruptly, but more commonly starts gradually and increases over time. The pain is provoked by movements of your thumb or wrist. In more severe cases, you may notice swelling on the outside of your wrist. Some patients complain of “catching” or a slight “squeaking” sound while moving their wrist.

Activities like gardening, knitting, cooking, playing a musical instrument, carpentry, walking a pet on a leash, texting, video gaming and sports like golf, volleyball, fly fishing and racquet sports are known triggers. The condition was once known as “Washer woman’s sprain,” since wringing out wet clothes can trigger the problem. Lifting infants or children by placing your outstretched finger and thumb beneath their armpit has led to the nicknames of “Mommy thumb” or “Baby wrist.”

The condition strikes women much more frequently than men. It typically affects middle-age adults and is more slightly common in African-Americans, patients with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis may be at higher risk for this problem.

Many patients will experience resolution of their symptoms through conservative care, like the type provided in our office. You should avoid lifting, grasping and pinching movements, especially when your wrist is bent toward either side. You may need to find alternate ways to lift children and perform work, sport and leisure activities. Video game players and those who text should take frequent breaks and try to hold their wrists straighter. Avoid wearing tight wristbands. Applying ice to your wrist for 10 minutes every hour or performing an “ice massage” (freeze a paper cup filled with water, tear off the bottom to expose the ice, massage over the tendons in a figure-eight pattern for 6-10 minutes, taking breaks as needed) can provide relief.

Patients who have severe pain or swelling are less likely to respond to conservative care. These patients may require a cortisone injection to relieve their pain, however, surgery is rarely necessary.

I’m getting old Doc… Getting old….

Your lumbar spine (low back) is made up of 5 individual vertebrae stacked on top of a bone called the “sacrum”. To allow for flexibility and movement, there is a cushion or “disc” in between each level. As we age, these discs can wear and become thinner over time. This leads to additional changes, including bone spurs and narrowing of the opening where your nerves exit your spine.

This process is called “lumbar spondylosis”, or simply, “arthritis”. This problem most commonly involves the vertebra at the very base of your spine, which bear the highest loads.

Lumbar arthritis is exceptionally common, affecting people as young as 20 and becoming extremely likely by age 70. How quickly you develop low back arthritis is largely a trait you inherited from your parents. Other factors may play a role, including a history of trauma, smoking, operating motorized vehicles, being overweight and/ or performing repetitive movements (i.e. lifting, twisting, bending or sitting). Men seem to be affected slightly more often than women.

Symptoms often begin as back and buttock pain that gradually worsens over time. Stiffness may be present upon arising in the morning. Pain is relieved by rest or light activity and aggravated by strenuous work. Sometimes your nerves can become “pinched” in narrowed openings where they exit your spine. This can cause “sciatica” which results in pain, numbness, or tingling radiating into your leg along the path of the irritated nerve. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice any weakness or if you have fever, abdominal pain, change in bowel or bladder function, or pain in your groin crease.

Arthritic changes can be seen on x-rays, but interestingly, the amount of wearing does not seem to correlate directly with the severity of your symptoms. People with the same degree of arthritis may have symptoms ranging from none to severe. Most researchers believe that the symptoms of osteoarthritis are not the direct result of the disease, but rather, from the conditions that preceded the disease and those that develop subsequent to it, like joint restrictions and muscle tightness. Fortunately, those conditions are treatable and our office has a variety of tools to help relieve your pain.

In general, you should avoid repeated lifting and twisting and take frequent breaks from prolonged sitting, especially in motorized vehicles. Avoid any position that causes an increase in radiating pain. Low-impact activities, like walking, stationary cycling, water aerobics, and yoga may be helpful.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Your radial nerve begins in your neck and travels past your elbow en route to its final destination in your hand. Just beyond your elbow, this nerve passes through a 2-inch area on the back of your forearm called the “Radial tunnel”. “Radial tunnel syndrome” means that your radial nerve has been compressed or irritated within this space-leading to forearm pain or hand weakness.

Radial tunnel syndrome is thought to result from muscular overuse, especially prolonged or excessive wrist extension or rotation. The most common cause of compression comes from excessive tightness in a muscle called the “Supinator”. Workers whose jobs require heavy or repetitive wrist movements are at an increased risk for this disorder. Occasionally, the radial nerve can become irritated from direct compression by a tight band or brace. The condition may be more common in those who have diabetes or thyroid problems.

Symptoms from irritation of the radial nerve depend upon which specific nerve fibers are irritated. The most common symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling or decreased sensitivity along the top of your forearm radiating toward your hand and thumb. The symptoms often mimic those of “tennis elbow.” When the nerve fibers that control muscle function become compressed, you may experience weakness when trying to extend your fingers, hand or wrist. Seventy percent of radial tunnel patients also have problems in their neck or upper back.

Conservative treatment of radial tunnel syndrome is generally successful. Fixing the problem means limiting excessive or repetitive wrist movements, especially extension and rotation. In severe cases, a splint may be necessary to limit your motion. Try to avoid compression of your forearm, particularly from tight bands or braces. Use of a tennis elbow brace will likely aggravate your symptoms. You may find relief by applying ice or ice massage to the area for 10-15 minutes at a time.

So it FEELS like Carpal Tunnel but it ISN’T Carpal Tunnel?

Your Median Nerve begins in your neck and travels down your arm on its way to your hand. This nerve is responsible for sensation on the palm side of your first 3 ½ fingers and also controls some of the muscles that flex your fingers. The median nerve can sometimes become entrapped near your elbow as it travels through a muscle called the “pronator teres”. Compression of the median nerve by the pronator muscle is called “Pronator Syndrome.”

Pronator syndrome is often brought on by prolonged or repeated wrist and finger movements, i.e., gripping with the palm down. Carpenters, mechanics, assembly line workers, tennis players, rowers, and weight lifters are predisposed to this problem. The condition is more common in people with excessively developed forearm muscles and is also more common in your dominant arm. Pronator syndrome most often affects adults age 45-60 and females are affected about four times more frequently than males. People who suffer from diabetes, thyroid disease, and alcoholism have an increased risk for developing pronator syndrome.

Pronator syndrome produces symptoms very similar to a more common cause of median nerve compression called “carpal tunnel syndrome”. Symptoms of pronator syndrome include numbness, tingling, or discomfort on the palm side of your thumb, index, middle finger, and half of your ring finger. The discomfort often begins near the elbow and radiates toward your hand. Your symptoms are likely aggravated by gripping activities, especially those that involve rotation of the forearm, like turning a doorknob or a screwdriver. Unlike carpal tunnel syndrome, pronator syndrome symptoms are not generally present at night. You may sometimes feel as though your hands are clumsy. In more severe cases, hand weakness can develop.

To help resolve your condition, you should avoid activities that involve repetitive hand and forearm movements. Perhaps the most important aspect of your treatment plan is to avoid repetitive forceful gripping. You may apply ice packs or ice massage directly over the pronator teres muscle for ten minutes at a time or as directed by our office. In some cases, an elbow splint may be used to limit forearm movements. If left untreated, pronator syndrome can result in permanent nerve damage. Fortunately, our office has several treatment options available to help resolve your symptoms.

Ouch! My Back Went Out!

Your spine consists of 24 individual vertebrae stacked on top of each other. Flexible cushions called “discs” live between each set of vertebrae. A disc is made up of two basic components. The inner disc, called the “nucleus”, is like a ball of jelly about the size of a marble. This jelly is held in place by the outer part of the disc called the “annulus”, which is wrapped around the inner nucleus much like a ribbon wrapping around your finger. The term lumbar disc lesion means that your disc has been damaged.

Disc lesions start when the outer fibers of the disc become strained or frayed. If enough fibers become frayed, this can create a weakness and when the disc is compressed, the outer fibers may “bulge” or “protrude” like a weak spot on an inner tube. If more fibers are damaged, the nucleus of the disc may “herniate” outward. Since the spinal cord and nerve roots live directly behind the disc, bulges that are accompanied by inflammation will likely create lower back pain that radiates into the buttock or the entire lower extremity. This condition is called sciatica. If the disc bulge is significant enough to create a mechanical compression of your nerve, you may also experience loss of your reflexes and weakness. Be sure to let our office know if you notice progressive weakness or numbness, any numbness around your groin, any loss of bowel or bladder control or fever.

Surprisingly, disc bulges are present without any symptoms in about 1/3 of the adult population. Another one third of adults will experience pain from a lumbar disc at some point in their lifetime. The condition is more common in men. Most lumbar disc problems occur at one of the two lowest discs- L5 or L4. Smokers and people who are generally inactive have a higher risk of lumbar disc problems. Certain occupations may place you at a greater risk, especially if you spend extended periods of time sitting or driving. People who are tall or overweight have increased risk of disc problems. The condition is uncommon in children and is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.

Researches have shown that disc bulges and sciatica may be successfully managed with conservative care like the type we will provide.

Put the shovel down and read this!

Your low back consists of 5 individual vertebrae stacked on top of each other. Flexible cushions called “discs” live between each set of vertebrae. A disc is made up of two basic components. The inner disc, called the “nucleus”, is like a ball of jelly about the size of a marble. This jelly is held in place by the outer part of the disc called the “annulus”, which is a tough ligament that wraps around the inner nucleus much like a ribbon wrapping around your finger.
Your low back relies on discs and other ligaments for support. “Discogenic Low Back Pain” develops when these tissues are placed under excessive stress, much like a rope that frays when it is stretched beyond its normal capacity. Most commonly, disc pain is not the result of any single event, but rather from repeated overloading. Your lumbar discs generally manage small isolated stressors quite well, but repetitive challenges lead to injury in much the same way that constantly bending a piece of copper wire will cause it to break. Examples of these stressors include: bad postures, sedentary lifestyles, poor fitting workstations, repetitive movements, improper lifting, or being overweight.

Approximately one third of adults will experience pain from a lumbar disc at some point in their lifetime. The condition is more common in men. Most lumbar disc problems occur at one of the two lowest discs- L5 or L4. Smokers and people who are generally inactive have a higher risk of lumbar disc problems. Certain occupations may place you at a greater risk, especially if you spend extended periods of time sitting or driving. People who are tall or overweight have increased risk of disc problems.

Symptoms from disc pain may begin abruptly but more commonly develop gradually. Symptoms may range from dull discomfort to surprisingly debilitating pain that becomes sharper when you move. Rest may relieve your symptoms but often leads to stiffness. The pain is generally centered in your lower back but can spread towards your hips or thighs. Be sure to tell your doctor if your pain extends beyond your knee, or if you have weakness in your lower extremities or a fever.

Repeated injuries cause your normal healthy elastic tissue to be replaced with less elastic “scar tissue.” Over time, discs may dehydrate and thin. This process can lead to ongoing pain and even arthritis. Patients who elect to forego treatment and “just deal with it” develop chronic low back pain more than 60% of the time. Seeking early and appropriate treatment like the type provided in our office is critical.

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may need to limit your activity for a while, especially bending, twisting, and lifting, or movements that cause pain. Bed rest is not in your best interest. You should remain active and return to normal activities as your symptoms allow. Light aerobic exercise (i.e. walking, swimming, etc) has been shown to help back pain sufferers. The short-term use of a lumbar support belt may be helpful. Sitting makes your back temporarily more vulnerable to sprains and strains from sudden or unexpected movements. Be sure to take “micro breaks” from workstations for 10 seconds every 20 minutes.