Spine Lumbar

What exactly is cauda equina syndrome? My mother-in-law was diagnosed with it but all we know is that she had a lot of back pain and needed emergency surgery.

Cauda equina syndrome is the name of a disorder that affects the cauda equina, the nerve roots, of the lumbar (lower) spine. These nerves become compressed because of trauma, infection, or narrowing of the spinal canal, for the most part.




I have been pregnant four times although I miscarried twice, so I have two living children. After my second miscarriage, I started having low back pain that has never gone away. Is this a common problem? Why can't I get back to normal?

Multiparity (multiple pregnancies) is a well-known risk factor for the development of low back pain that doesn't necessarily go away when the baby is born. Other risk factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle (i.e., inactivity and no exercise), and a previous history of low back pain are additional risk factors for ongoing, long-term (chronic) low back pain.




My two sisters have had five pregnancies between them. They are always complaining about back pain. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in three other countries, I never heard the women complain of back pain. Are we just spoiled Americans quick to complain about the slightest ache and pain? I'm having trouble feeling any sympathy for my siblings.

Don't be too quick to throw the towel in on your sisters. Many studies in the United States and abroad agree on one thing: low back pain is very common in pregnant women everwhere. And those women will tell you it's darn uncomfortable and even disabling.




Back Pain in Pregnant Women: More Than a Snapshot

Is low back pain (LBP) during pregnancy normal? If studies are right and half of all women have low back pain sometime during pregnancy, does that support the idea that this symptom is to be expected during pregnancy? Available studies provide only a snapshot of what's going on with women, pregnancy, and low back pain. The answers to these and other questions are not to be found in the many small studies already published.




Reviewing the Definition of Cauda Equina Syndrome

While only one out of 2000 patients are diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, it is diagnosed in one percent to 16 percent of patients who have lower back (lumbar) disk herniations (bulging or slipped disks) and in two percent to three percent of patients who end up needed surgery for the herniated disks.




Opioids May Not Be Solution for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain

In the late 1990s, the United States government made it easier for doctors to order opioids (narcotics) to help relieve pain not caused by cancer, called chronic non-cancer pain. As a result, the prescriptions of opioids has grown so doctors could help treat patients living with chronic pain. Some studies showed that these medications could help treat chronic pain, however some of it wasn't very strong.




Does it make sense to you that a 80-year-old grandmother would need surgery to fuse her spine? She's so stiff, I doubt her spine even moves. But the surgeon is recommending a spinal fusion for a condition they call degenerative spondylolisthesis. What can you tell me about this?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one of the vertebral bones slips forward over the one below it. Spondylolisthesis alters the alignment of the spine. As the bone slips forward, the nearby tissues and nerves may become irritated and painful. In older adults, degeneration of the disc and facet (spinal) joints can lead to spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis from degeneration usually affects people over 50 years old.




Which Surgical Fusion Method is Best for Degenerative Spondylolisthesis?

There are different reasons to fuse the spine and different ways to do the fusion procedure. Surgeons are studying the results of fusion techniques to get an idea of which one works best for each problem. In this study, patients who had a spinal fusion for degenerative spondylolisthesis with one of three fusion methods are compared. Two of the fusion techniques used instrumentation such as screws or metal plates and screws.




I am one of many silent sufferers. With chronic low back pain, I've made the rounds of chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and massage therapists with little to show for it except an empty wallet. Is any thing being done in this country for people like us? There has to be a way out of this prison of pain.

Chronic pain such as you are experiencing is, indeed, more common than one might imagine. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) estimates approximately 50 million people in the United States are chronic pain sufferers. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts three or more months longer than the expected time for healing.




Dad is 72 and had his first surgery ever less than two weeks ago. They did a laminectomy for spinal stenosis. Although his back pain was better at first, now it's getting worse everyday. Is this normal? How long do we wait for the pain to go away?

Laminectomy is the removal of part or all of the lamina, a column of bone that helps form an arch around the spinal cord to protect it. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, the long tube where the spinal cord goes from the brain down to the end of the spine. Anything that can narrow this space can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots. Cutting away the lamina opens up the spinal canal and takes pressure off these neural structures.




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