Treated Spine Conditions
Dr. James Ulibarri leads the Spine Team at Sheridan Orthopedic Associates and is a Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeon. Dr. Ulibarri uses both non-surgical and Minimally Invasive Surgical approaches to treat chronic and degenerative conditions of the cervical and lumbar spine. He is one of the most sought after spine specialists in Wyoming and has published several articles regarding spinal conditions and surgery.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is not a condition itself, but rather a general term used to describe one or more spinal conditions. Degenerative Disc Disease can represent a single spinal condition or several spinal conditions occurring simultaneously. These conditions can include:
● Spinal Stenosis
● Disc Herniations
● Osteophyte formation within the spine
Spinal Stenosis is categorized by the narrowing of the canal that contains the spinal cord.
This narrowing can result in increased pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots that exit the spine. This pressure or irritation of the spinal nerve roots is what causes the pain and discomfort associated with Spinal Stenosis. In some instances, bone spurs may form and increase the pressure on the spinal nerves causing more severe symptoms.
The onset of spinal stenosis is most often a result of the aging process and may begin naturally to those in there 40’s and 50’s. However, Spinal Stenosis may have an early onset as a result of certain genetic conditions, trauma or arthritic conditions. Spinal Stenosis can occur in both the cervical (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back) but is more common in the lumbar spine. Lumbar spinal stenosis is often an underlying cause of what is known as Sciatica.
Spinal Stenosis of the cervical spine may require more immediate medical attention as it may compress the spinal cord and cause neurological effects.
Signs and symptoms Spinal Stenosis may include:
- Pain in lumbar or cervical spine
- Pain that radiates into the extremities (radiculopathy)
- Bladder or bowel dysfunction
Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the vertebrae of the spine slides backward toward the spinal canal. This movement of the vertebrae can result in irritation of the spinal nerve roots or compression of the spinal cord. This condition is much more common in the lumbar spine and has three main causes:
Degenerative– Commonly found in older patients. Occurs when the disc loses fluid over time, and become unable to absorb shock and resist spinal movement.
Isthmic– This condition occurs from a fracture in the spinal cord, leading to the bone slipping out of place
Congenital– This type would be a result of being born with an abnormal formation, resulting in the disc slipping out of place.
Signs and symptoms of Spondylolisthesis may include:
- Lower back pain
- Tight and sore hamstrings
- Back spasms
- Pain or numbness in foot
A herniated disc occurs when the water and protein based substance that is held within the discs of the spine begins to protrude into the spinal canal or onto one of the spinal nerves. The fibrous tissue that surrounds the discs (annulus) tears and allows the fluid begins to leak.
Herniated discs most often occur in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) spine. The intervertebral discs act as the cushions of the spine and allow the spine to remain flexible and absorb the weight of daily activities. Repetitive strain and small traumas can weaken these discs over time causing them to rupture. In other instances, disc herniations occur as a result of sudden trauma or overexertion.
When a spinal disc becomes herniated a protrusion may form and it can begin to irritate or compress the nerve roots that exit each level of the spine. Depending on the location of the herniation a variety of symptoms can occur. Herniated discs are almost always accompanied by persistent pain in the lower back or neck.
Those with herniated discs in the lumbar or cervical spine may experience signs and symptoms including:
- Persistent back pain
- Persistent neck pain
- Pain that radiates into the arms (Cervical Radiculopathy)
- Pain that radiates into the legs (Lumbar Radiculopathy)
Sciatica is a term used to describe a burning or aching pain that travels down the sciatic nerve. This nerve begins in the lumbar spine and extends into the hips, buttocks and down each leg. A classic sign of Sciatica is radiating pain along the hip and into the leg. Sciatica itself is not a diagnosis but rather a symptom of an underlying spinal condition.
Generally, Sciatica will only affect only one side of your body. Standing, sitting, coughing, sneezing or sudden movements may aggravate this condition and cause a sharp pain along the Sciatic nerve.
The underlying causes of Sciatica can include:
- Herniated spinal disc
- Bone spurs in the spine
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal nerve compression
Spondylosis (sometimes called a “collapsed disc”) is a term that describes a reduction in the space between two spinal vertebrae. This reduction in space leads to the exiting nerve root becoming irritated or impinged by the intervertebral disc or vertebrae. This irritation is often the cause of the pain that radiates through the extremities.
In more severe cases, the intervertebral discs will completely wear away deteriorate causing bone on bone contact. This can often lead to spinal fractures and bone spurs. As the condition progresses it can begin to increase pressure or irritate the nerve roots exiting the spine.
Spondylosis is often seen in athletes or those whose job involves manual labor and repetitive motion. This process is can be accelerated by incidents of high impact collision, heavy forces on the spine and sports that involve concussive actions anywhere on the body.
Spondylosis can occur both in the cervical and lumbar spine and the symptoms may vary depending on the location.
Signs and symptoms of Spondylosis can include:
- Chronic back or neck pain
- Pain that radiates into the extremities (radiculopathy)
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities