When the movement between each vertebra is excessive or abnormal, it is referred to as spinal instability. At MiVIP, we are well-equipped to handle this degenerative process by providing both an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment.
Abnormal Movement of the Vertebrae
Instability occurs when both the spinal disc and joints are damaged. Tension between the vertebrae is lost when the disc deteriorates and allows the joints to move beyond their normal alignment. It is often mistakenly believed that increased internal spinal movement is a positive occurrence, but it increases the spine’s susceptibility to painful bone spurs and arthritic joint overgrowths.
What Causes Spinal InstabilitySpinal instability, otherwise known as an unstable spine, is often caused by:
- Acute Traumatic Injury – If a sudden-onset injury causes the supportive structures of the spine – the ligaments, tendons, joints, and muscles – to be pulled, broken or otherwise damaged, it can result in excessive and abnormal movement of the spine.
- Degenerative Spine Disease – Spinal stenosis and herniated discs are two examples of spinal disorders that can occur as a result of normal, age-related spinal degeneration. Looseness in the joints can be present if the deterioration is great enough over time.
Symptoms Attributed to Spinal InstabilityDepending on the cause, the severity of the condition and the position of the instability, symptoms range from mild to severe. Common complaints include:
- Pain in the affected area that is worse with movement
- Pain radiating into the extremities
Proper Way to Treat Spinal InstabilityAfter a complete neurological exam and imaging tests, a doctor might recommend the following:
- Rest – In cases of minor instability, the supportive joints may heal on their own with proper rest.
- Brace – Often in conjunction with moderate rest, a brace can provide needed support to encourage faster healing.
- Physical Therapy – Strengthening the backbone has been shown to control the symptoms of an unstable spine, especially when used in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Medication – Medication will not aid in healing, but pain killers can help control discomfort while treatment options are considered, and allow enough mobility to strengthen the affected area.
- Surgery – An operation is always reserved for the extreme cases of spinal instability. Minimally invasive spinal surgery may be required to immobilize a section of the spine, remove bone spurs or expand the gap between the vertebrae to allow sufficient room for the nerves.