Why Spinal Instability Can Be So Problematic
Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 27, 2020
Spinal instability is one of the most common conditions we see in our clinic because natural wear and tear is one of the main reasons you lose spinal stability. We can work to prevent instability, but at the same time, there’s only so much we can do in our battle against Father Time.
As our spinal vertebrae degenerate and wear down, they actually begin to become more mobile. While this may sound like a good thing, this hypermobility actually serves to make the spine more unstable. Similar to a game of Jenga, the tower becomes more flexible as the structure becomes less stable until it eventually collapses due to it being, you guessed it, unstable. Now while your spine won’t collapse as abruptly as a Jenga tower, you get the idea of how this hypermobility and instability can make it harder for your spine to function optimally.
Signs Of Spinal Instability
So what signs and symptoms suggest that we may be dealing with some segmental instability? More often than not, back pain is the first indication of a stability issue. If segments become more flexible, they may end up handling more stress during everyday movements as stress can’t be displaced as easily in an unstable spine. This added stress in one area can lead to pain, stiffness and range of motion problems. Other signs that suggest you might have some form of spinal instability include:
- Muscle weakness
- Spinal muscle spasms
- Pain when transitioning from seated to standing position
- Sudden, sharp pain
If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, it may be a good idea to talk to your physician or a spine specialist about your back.
Treating Spinal Instability
Although spinal instability can occur naturally as we age, it can also develop as a result of acute trauma or due to an issue with our facet joints, so it’s not just an issue for older individuals. Treatment will focus on rectifying the underlying cause, but in general the goal is to restabilize the area that has become hypermobile. For many patients, this includes a combination of physical therapy, targeted exercises and core strengthening. Many patients experience pain relief and increased spinal stabilization with daily strength training exercises and simple postural changes.
If these treatment options don’t work, the next likely step in treatment is to see if corticosteroids or pain medications can provide relief. These won’t be used on their own, but they can make physical therapy and other stabilization exercises more bearable so that you can complete the exercises and see the benefits from other active treatment techniques.
Finally, if you’re still dealing with pain and instability after trying different conservative options, surgery may be recommended. Oftentimes a minor spinal fusion procedure can help to stabilize the hypermobile vertebrae and reduce or eliminate your pain. You’ll still need to be aware of your posture and partake in strength training exercises to keep your spine stable, but many patients experience fantastic results with minimally invasive spinal fusion for instability.
For more information, or for help with any of your back pain needs, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.