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The 11 main diseases of the spine

The 11 main diseases of the spine

May 5, 2024

The spine is a structure composed of bone and cartilage that protects the spinal cord, a set of nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body. Thanks to the spine, people are able to walk and maintain balance; disorders in this part of the body cause motor and other signs.

In this article we will describe in a synthetic way the main characteristics of 11 of the main diseases of the spine , such as spina bifida, scoliosis, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Diseases of the spine

The alterations of the spine can be due to very different causes, from failures in the intrauterine development to viral or bacterial infections.


However, given that we are referring to the same region of the nervous system, many of the disorders we will describe cause similar symptoms, such as muscle paralysis and stiffness.

1. Scoliosis

Scoliosis is one of the most frequent diseases of the spine, especially in women. It is characterized by the curvature of the spine , which can get worse over the years; in milder cases, this alteration does not cause major complications, but if the degree of deviation is high, it can interfere with breathing.

2. Lumbar spinal stenosis

The lumbar spinal stenosis consists in the narrowing of the medullary canal, which in turn causes an understanding of the spinal cord and the lumbar nerves, causing pain. It's about a Degenerative disorder usually associated with aging , although it can also appear as a consequence of alterations such as achondroplasia or dwarfism.


3. Spina bifida

Sometimes the spine does not close completely during intrauterine development; when this happens part of the spinal cord is partially uncovered . The most common is that the alteration occurs in the lower back. Although severe cases are associated with multiple problems, 10-20% of people are born with some degree of spina bifida.

  • Related article: "Spina bifida: types, causes and treatment"

4. Horsetail syndrome

The horsetail ("cauda equina") is a set of spinal nerves that are located in the lower part of the back. The damage in this region causes signs such as muscle weakness, paralysis, gait disturbances and sciatic pain because of the appearance of dysfunctions in the lower motor neurons of this part of the spinal cord.


5. Malformation of Chiari

Chiari malformations are structural defects of the cerebellum, a region of the brain that plays a key role in motor coordination. Sometimes during gestation part of the cerebellar nervous tissue slides through the foramen magnum , hole that connects the base of the skull with the spine. Symptoms vary depending on the severity.

6. Transverse myelitis

Transverse myelitis is defined as inflammation of the spinal cord. This disorder involves motor symptoms and signs such as weakness and muscle paralysis, as well as sensory deficits (for example, the appearance of pain sensations in the absence of stimulation). It is associated mainly to infections, tumors, vascular alterations and to multiple sclerosis.

  • Related article: "Transverse myelitis: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment"

7. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disorder in adults. It is a disease related to the Progressive degeneration of myelin sheaths that coat the axons of many neurons, allowing the efficient transmission of nerve impulses. This causes muscular, sensory and psychological symptoms that worsen over time.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Multiple sclerosis: types, symptoms and possible causes"

8. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

This disease consists in the destruction of neurons involved in voluntary muscular motor skills. The main symptoms and signs are stiffness, atrophy and other alterations of the muscles, which entail Growing difficulties swallowing food and fluids , to talk and even to breathe; This last problem usually causes death.

9. Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a subtype of arthritis that is characterized by inflammation of the joints between bones of the spine, usually in the region where it joins the pelvis. It is thought to be due to disorders related to the immune system and pathological inflammation of tissues. Stiffness and back pain progressively increase.

10Spondylosis (degenerative disc disease)

Spondylosis consists of the gradual degeneration of the intervertebral discs and the cartilage that protects the points of union between vertebrae. It is common in elderly people since normal aging implies this process to a greater or lesser degree. Sometimes it affects the marrow and the nerves, compressing them progressively.

11. Hypercifosis

"Kyphosis" is a term used to refer to the normal curvature of the spine when it is directed from the inside to the outside of the body. If the curvature is equal to or greater than 45 degrees the spine loses the ability to move inward (lordosis), causing postural changes, pain and occasionally deformations and respiratory problems.


Degenerative Spine | Q&A with Dr. Lee Riley (May 2024).


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