Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
Spinal instability is a condition that occurs when the intervertebral discs in your spine begin to degenerate. When this happens, the discs lose height, which causes the vertebrae to displace from their anatomical position. This can lead to friction between sets of vertebrae, causing pain and other problems. It can also increase your risk of spinal arthritis. So how can you prevent and treat spinal instability before it causes major problems down the road?
Preventing Spinal Instability
Like all health conditions, prevention is preferred to treatment. The best ways to prevent spinal instability is to partake in certain activities that strengthen the spine, and avoid activities that can speedup disc breakdown. Prevention techniques include:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid poor lifting techniques
- Eat a healthy diet
- Perform daily exercise
- Practice good posture throughout the day
- Avoid tobacco products
- See your spine specialist at the first sign of a problem
Treating Segmental Spinal Instability
Even with your best efforts, it’s possible that you’re suffering from spinal instability. The condition can also be caused by physical trauma or certain genetic conditions, so you may not have a lot of say in preventing instability from developing. That said, you can play an active role in how the problem is treated.
In most cases where instability is in the beginning stages, your spine surgeon will suggest conservative care measures. These non-invasive techniques can help prevent further instability and keep pain at bay. They may not be able to reverse the instability, but the can help make each day more bearable. Some of those treatments include:
- Physical Therapy – Physical therapy has been shown to be effective at treating mild instability as it focuses on strengthening key spinal structures.
- Painkillers or Anti-Inflammatory Medications – Medications can help to prevent pain caused by the onset of inflammation or nerve compression. These medications can also make physical therapy more bearable if it is limiting your ability to perform certain activities.
- Modified Exercise – Some non-weight bearing exercises like swimming can be great for problems like spinal instability, as it allows you to perform certain movements and exercises that may not be possible on land due to gravity.
If conservative methods don’t treat the problem, a more hands-on approach may be necessary. There are a couple different operations that can help address spinal instability, and your doctor can walk you through all your options. The two most common operations are the microdiscectomy, which involves removing the damaged disc that is affecting your spinal nerves, or the spinal fusion operation, which involves preventing segmental shifting by fusing two vertebrae to one another. Both have different pros and cons depending on your specific situation.
For more information on how to treat spinal instability, or if you have a question for a back specialist, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.