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Spinal Instability

Spinal Instability is a condition characterised by failure of the spinal column to maintain its normal structure leading to slipping of the vertebral bones over one another in specific movements of the spine. Normally, the spine functions to protect and provide support to the body and its internal organs. An unstable spine is incapable of holding various spinal structures such as spinal muscles, ligaments, bones and discs in place. Mild spinal instability may resolve on its own, while a severe spinal instability may damage the spinal cord, nerve roots and lead to spinal deformity.

The common causes of spinal instability are:

  • 1.Injury or trauma to the spinal column
  • 2.Spinal degenerative disease
  • 3.Tumor in the vertebrae, discs or ligaments
  • 4.Congenital defects
  • 1.Back pain – perhaps in certain spine positions
  • 2.Nerve irritation causing deep, severe pain starting from the back and radiating to the legs
  • 3.Painful muscle spasms
  • 4.Numbness or weakness in the leg, foot or arms

Xrays of the spine are taken in bending position of the spine (called Flexion and Extension views) are taken to identify which level of the spinal segments slip over each other.
MRI scan maybe useful to identify any compression of the cord/nerve roots.

Treatment may involve pain-killers, B12 tablets/injections, bracing (contoured/flexible), stretching and strengthening exercises, Limitation of certain activities or finally surgery.
Treatment varies depending on the severity and cause of spinal instability. Pain and vertebral slippage in cases of mild spinal instability can be relieved with physical therapy. However, trauma to the spinal column or congenital instability requires surgical treatment.
Spinal Instrumentation and/or Spinal fusion