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Spine Conditions

Herniated or Ruptured Discs

A herniated, slipped or ruptured disc in your back can cause each of these pain patterns. The ways in which a slipped disc causes different pain patterns and problems with your back is related to the location of the slipped disc along your spine and also to the anatomy of your spinal column.

The spinal column, or backbone, consists of 33 bones (vertebrae) and can be divided into five segments, called the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal sections of the spine. Each of these sections corresponds to a particular part of your body. The cervical spine is that part of the spine in your neck, the thoracic spine supports your trunk, the lumbar spine supports your lower back and abdomen, the sacrum supports your pelvis, and the coccyx is your tailbone.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease affects the spinal discs between the vertebrae. This condition often results in the loss of cushioning, fragmentation and herniation. Some patients don’t notice any symptoms, but  others suffer pain or weakness in their backs due to bone spurs that pinch a nerve root.


Sciatica is the descriptive term for when pain runs from your back or buttocks down your leg and into your foot.

It is a condition caused by either compression or trauma of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is made worse when you cough or if someone lifts your leg up while you are laying down. Symptoms may begin abruptly or gradually, are usually irritated by movement, and often grow worse at night. Sciatica implies that there is an irritation of your nerve root in the lower part of your spine. In some instances, this could be due to a ruptured or herniated disc in your lower back.


Spondylolysis is a defect in the lamina of the vertebrae in the pars interarticularis, usually the fourth or the fifth lumbar vertebrae in the lower (lumbar) spine. Spondylolysis may occur as a congenital defect or be the result of repetitive trauma. Some physicians believe spondylolysis may be caused by genetics and that someone could be born with thin vertebral bones causing them to be vulnerable to the condition. Spondylolysis is common in teenage gymnasts and football players and presents with lower back pain that is worse with strenuous exercise or activity. Radiographic findings are subtle, but bone scans or CT scans will usually detect the lesion. Activity modification, bracing, or surgical treatment may be indicated for persistent symptoms.


Spondylolisthesis occurs when spondylolysis weakens one of the vertebrae so much that the bone slips out of place.

The condition can also be caused by degenerative disc disease. If the vertebrae slip too much and begin to press on nerves, surgery may become necessary. Spondylolisthesis may also be caused by degenerative conditions that affect the vertebral joints.

Early treatment usually involves rest and medication. Progressive spondylolisthesis usually requires surgical treatment.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and Strains are the most acute pain in the back and results from sustaining a mild strain in the back or back musculature. Sprains and strains in your lower back usually happen during a sudden and stressful injury, causing stretching or tearing of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in your lower back. When you strain or sprain your lower back, it causes a lot of stress on your spine, irritating it. If you have this condition, you may also suffer from painful muscle spasms which can occur during your daily activities or at night while you’re sleeping. The pain is usually limited to five or ten days.


Stenosis, a narrowing passage way of the spine, causes pressure on the spinal cord or nerves that often produces a dull, aching pain in the lower back when standing or walking. People with stenosis may or may not have back pain – but if they do, the pain usually radiates down into the buttocks and thighs. The pain usually gets worse over time and eventually causes a slow decrease in the ability to walk short distances.

Lumbar stenosis is a natural product of aging and the wear and tear on the spine throughout our lives. As our bodies grow older, the ligaments and bones that make up the spine grow thicker and become stiffer. The spinal canal gradually narrows, and the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves are slowly compressed. The compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves causes symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness, and bowel and bladder dysfunction.

Diagnosing and Treating Stenosis

A first visit to TN Brain and Spine includes a review of symptoms and history of previous treatment methods. Spinal stenosis may develop or become symptomatic at any age, but is most frequently diagnosed in older patients – often people who are ready to enjoy retirement and want to remain active. 

Our neurosurgeons work with patients to find alternatives to surgery if possible. If surgery is required, patients typically will undergo a lumbar laminectomy