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Spine Symptoms

Not all spinal conditions present pain in the neck or back. Some spinal conditions cause loss of dexterity, pain that radiates into the arms or legs, loss of bladder or bowel control, and other symptoms. Treatment options are available for many causes and symptoms of spinal-related pain. Learn more about some of the symptoms treated at St. Luke’s Medical Center below. This list is not comprehensive; treatment may be available for additional symptoms by your physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

For more information about the treatment of neck, back, and spinal-related pain at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ, please call 1-877-351-WELL (9355).

Arm/Leg Numbness and/or Weakness

Cause: If you experience arm or leg numbness or weakness, you probably assume the issue is in the extremity experiencing the symptom. However, extremity numbness and weakness is sometimes caused by injuries in the spine. For example, a disc herniation can apply pressure to the spinal cord, which can send pain signals as well as cause numbness or weakness in an extremity. Numbness and weakness in the extremities may also be caused by bone spurs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, (rarely) spinal tumors and other disorders of the spine. Any condition in which the spinal cord or a nerve root is pinched in the upper back or neck may cause tingling or pain in the arms or fingers. In the lower back or lumbar region, the weakness, numbness or pain may be experienced in the lower extremities, such as the buttocks, legs, feet, and toes.

Diagnosis: Contact one of the specialized providers at St. Luke’s Medical Center for an evaluation. The diagnostic process may include a physical examination and a review of your complete medical past. The physician may also ask you to perform tests that evaluate your strength, flexibility and sensitivity. If your orthopaedic physician finds that the numbness or weakness may be a spine-related issue, an imaging study such as an x-ray or MRI may be ordered.

Treatment: Because the underlying issues causing the symptoms can vary greatly, the treatment will also vary greatly depending on the condition. Frequently, numbness and weakness is a result of pressure on the cord or nerve roots. If this is the case, your Phoenix-area orthopaedic physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center may prescribe physical therapy. Other treatments could involve medication to relieve pain or injections. However, some conditions must be treated surgically to provide the patient with adequate relief.

Back Pain

Cause: According to NIH, 80% of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes. The conditions causing upper, middle and lower back pain are wide and varied. Causes may include strains and sprains, herniated discs, radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spinal deformities or traumatic injuries. This list of possible conditions in by no means exhaustive.

Diagnosis: When you consult a spine physician, providing a full medical history and completing a physical exam will help the physician diagnose the cause of pain in your back. Some circumstances may also require an imaging test such as MRI, x-ray or CT scan to see the bone and muscle structures in your back.

Treatment: In order to best treat your pain, the specialists at St. Luke’s Medical Center will first identify your pain as acute or chronic. Different conditions require different treatments. Most physicians begin treatments conservatively using alternating heat and ice therapy, cold laser therapy, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, and medicines to help control pain and spasm. If conservative treatments are failing to relieve your symptoms, or if the diagnosis indicates significant damage, your Phoenix-area orthopaedic physician may recommend spinal surgery. Surgery is often used to improve stability, reduce excessive movement in the spine or restore vertebral height.

Gait Disorder (Walking Difficulty, Clumsy Walking, Loss of Balance)

Cause: “Gait Disorder” is a clinical definition encompassing many issues related to balance, walking and stability. Sometime gait disorders are actually caused by spinal conditions. Muscular problems may contribute to other disorders such as foot drop.

Diagnosis: Your physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center will evaluate you for a gait disorder through reviewing your medical history and performing a physical exam. The specialist may also ask you to perform gait and balance tests in the office to diagnose a cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Imaging tests may also be needed to examine the spinal structure.

Treatment: Treating gait disorder may involve a specialized brace, physical therapy, medication or other therapies. Ask your physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center for more information. If nerve compression is causing your gait disorder and is severe enough, surgery may be necessary.

Hand Dexterity Problems (Difficulty Buttoning Shirts, Grip Loss, etc.)

Cause: Difficulty with hand dexterity, such as gripping or buttoning a shirt, may be caused by nerve damage in the neck. Nerves could become compressed due to degenerative disc disease or aggravated by bone spurs.

Diagnosis: If you have lost ability to grip items or perform other simple daily tasks that you once did without a thought, contact your physician. An specialist at St. Luke’s Medical Center will review your medical history and do a physical exam in order to diagnose your hand dexterity problems.

Treatment: Depending on the diagnosis, treating dexterity issues may focus on the symptoms, the underlying condition, or both. Non-invasive treatments, including physical therapy and strengthening exercises, are typically tried first. If the conservative treatments fail to restore dexterity, the orthopaedic physician may determine injections or surgery are necessary. If a nerve is impinged, relieving the pressure may improve dexterity issues.

Loss of Control of Bowel & Bladder

Cause: Incontinence in either the bladder and/or bowel may be a symptom of a spine disorder. Cauda Equina Syndrome is a neurological disorder of the nerve roots at the end of the spinal canal; this condition can cause incontinence. Sometimes a ruptured disc in a very specific portion of the spine can cause nerve issues that result in bowel or bladder incontinence.

Diagnosis: After the physician at at St. Luke’s Medical Center has obtained a full medical history and given you a thorough physical examination, he or she may order a diagnostic imaging study such as a CT scan or an MRI to examine the vertebrae.

Treatment: If urinary or bowel incontinence is the result of spinal cord or nerve compression, then your specialist may prescribe physical therapy, injections, or surgery (among other treatment options) to alleviate the pressure from the spinal cord or nerves.

Neck Pain

Cause: Neck pain is a common complaint many people experience. Often, neck issues are caused from a sprain or strain or sudden impact such as an auto accident. For other patients, neck pain is a symptom stemming from a spinal disorder, such as disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, or a ruptured disc. Often times, innocuous habits, such as poor posture, especially while sitting at a computer, can contribute to permanent, painful changes in the cervical spine.

Diagnosis: At St. Luke’s Medical Center, the physician will review your medical history and perform a physical exam to help diagnose neck pain. Testing the flexibility and range of motion in your neck may also provide information critical to the diagnostic process. Imaging tests such as x-rays, MRIs, or CT scans may be used to confirm the suspected diagnosis.

Treatment: Neck pain can frequently be treated non-surgically with alternating ice and heat therapy, physical therapy, rest, strengthening exercises and medication such as anti-inflammatory or pain relieving drugs. Our spine surgeons can also recommend ergonomic changes in your environment to reduce stress on the muscles and bones of the spine. If the underlying condition becomes progressively worse and threatens to cause long-term damage or neurological issues, the orthopaedic physician may feel surgery is necessary to protect the neck and restore stability.

Schedule Your Visit With an Orthopaedic Spine Physician or Pain Management Specialist in Phoenix, AZ

For more information about spine care at St Luke’s Medical Center, call 1-877-351-WELL (9355).


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