What kind of symptoms does a spinal instability patient experience?

Displaced vertebra

If the degenerative process causes spinal instability, displacement of one vertebra will cause the spinal canal to narrow, thus causing the constriction of one or more sciatic nerves, which may cause pain radiating down the legs as well as low backache. If this happens, both legs will often be affected

Generally speaking, when a vertebra is displaced, the patient is already experiencing narrowing of the spinal canal due to thickened ligaments and enlarged vertebral facet joints, which are common in this situation. This will cause additional narrowing of the spinal canal, which in turn will cause more pain. Patients suffering from a displaced vertebra tend to experience more pain in their legs than in their lower back.

Degenerative disc disease

Scientists are increasingly convinced that backache could be traced back to degeneration of the intervertebral disc, which causes the spine to become unstable. It is believed that affected vertebrae make ‘micro movements’, even though no clear displacement can be detected in X-ray images. This minimally increased mobility results in pain on the hand and in ongoing degeneration on the other, thus causing a vicious circle. Patients suffering from degenerative disc disease tend to suffer deep backache rather than sore legs.

Patients will often experience pain in their legs, as well, but they will suffer a less specific type of pain than the one caused by mechanical nerve compression, which may occur in the event of a hernia or displaced vertebra. This is called pseudoradicular leg pain. It is said that the pain in the legs is caused by an inflammation of the degenerated intervertebral disc, which causes endotoxins and radicals to be released that will irritate the adjacent sciatic nerve/s.

The deep backache will be most painful during the day, when the back is being loaded and used, and will generally subside during the night.

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