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Developmental Disorders

A variety of the most common spinal disorders are frequently encountered at ANA. We work with our patients to carefully evaluate these conditions, and we seek to exhaust all non-surgical solutions before considering surgery.

Herniated Discs, Lumbar & Cervical

Although herniation can occur in any section of the spine, lumbar (low back) and cervical (neck) disc herniations are the most common. Thoracic disc disease is similar in nature to the lumbar and cervical herniation, but problems related to the symptoms for thoracic disc herniation are far less common. Pain in this condition is usually isolated to the upper back.

Intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers and provide normal flexibility of the spinal column. They are the rubbery cushions between the vertebrae (the bones of the spine). Each disc is normally located next to the spinal nerves. When the discs deteriorate due to age (degeneration), or are affected by injury, they become prone to herniation (bulging or rupture). This can cause a piece of the disc to move, or leak, and put pressure on a spinal nerve.

A herniated disc can cause pain and nervous system dysfunction. Symptoms of a herniated disc may include:

  • Arm or leg pain (depending on location of affected disc)
  • Pain in the back, chest, arms, or buttocks
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Weakness in certain muscles and in one or both legs (depending on location of affected disc)
  • Severe deep muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms

Surgery may be recommended in the event there is no resolution to painful symptoms following a period of more conservative measures.

Degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease, also referred to as spondylosis, is defined as the deterioration of at least one of the intervertebral discs of the spinal column. However, it is not technically a “disease”, but rather a normal result of the aging process. While disc degeneration can occur along the entire spine, the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (low back) are most commonly affected.

Over time, repeated stress takes its toll on the spinal discs, as does joint dysfunction, gravity and various types of trauma. This causes the discs to compress and degenerate. This compression also inhibits the healthy process of much-needed oxygen and nutrients from getting into the discs. The lack of these vital ingredients causes the previously tough disc outer layers to become soft, making the disc vulnerable to injury and disease. Disc degeneration occurs more rapidly in obese individuals, people who do strenuous physical work, and regular tobacco smokers.

For most people, the natural process of aging and gradual degeneration of the discs is not a problem. Despite the fact that by age 60 most people have some degree of disc degeneration, some people have degenerative disc disease and never experience any symptoms.

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease may include:

  • Pain that worsens when sitting (which occurs because sitting produces more load on the discs than standing)
  • Pain that gets worse when bending, lifting or twisting
  • Periods of severe pain that come and go
  • Numbness and tingling in the extremities
  • Pain in the low back, buttocks and legs; or pain in the neck; or pain radiating to the arms and hands—all depending on the location of the affected disc
  • Weakness in the leg muscles
  • Foot drop caused by damage to the nerve root (pinched nerve)

If pain and disability do not resolve over time with more conservative treatments, surgery in the form of a fusion or disc replacement may be a viable option. 

ANA also treats a variety of congenital disorders found to transcend into adulthood, including malformations.