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Spine Conditions and Treatments at UPMC Spine Care

At UPMC Spine Care, our experienced physicians, non-physician providers and support staff deliver comprehensive, advanced treatment to help you feel better fast.

From diagnosis to treatment to recovery, we provide the region’s most advanced care for a range of back, neck and spine conditions, including:

  • Compression fractures. A compression fracture occurs when an injury to a spinal bone (vertebra) causes it to fracture and collapse (compress). A weakened vertebra may collapse because of a minor injury or without an obvious injury, often as the result of osteoporosis. When several vertebrae have been fractured, a person may lose height. Compression fractures may lead to a hump in the upper back (dowager's hump) and may cause back pain.
  • Degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age. Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing it to flex, bend, and twist. Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).
  • Herniated (ruptured) Disc. The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in your back are cushioned by small, spongy discs. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep the spine flexible. But when a disc is damaged, it may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disc. It may also be called a slipped or ruptured disc.
  • Myelopathy. Myelopathy is a result of compression of the spinal cord in the neck. This can cause problems with motor skills, pain or stiffness in the neck, loss of balance, or trouble walking.
  • Radiculopathy. Radiculopathy is commonly called a pinched nerve. Pinched nerves can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in the area of the body to which the nerve travels.
  • Sciatica. Sciatica is pain, tingling, or numbness produced by an irritation of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is formed by the nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord into the lower back. It goes down through the buttock, then its branches extend down the back of the leg to the ankle and foot.
  • Scoliosis. Scoliosis is a problem with the curve in your spine. Many people have some curve in their spine. But a few people have spines that make a large curve from side to side in the shape of the letter "S" or the letter "C." If this curve is severe, it can cause pain and make breathing difficult.
  • Spinal Stenosis. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, known as the lumbar area. This usually happens when bone or tissue—or both—grow in the openings in the spinal bones. This growth can squeeze and irritate nerves that branch out from the spinal cord. The result can be pain, numbness, or weakness, most often in the legs, feet, and buttocks.
  • Spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one bone in your back (vertebra) slides forward over the bone below it. It most often occurs in the lower spine (lumbosacral area). In some cases, this may lead to your spinal cord or nerve roots being squeezed. This can cause back pain and numbness or weakness in one or both legs. In rare cases, it can also lead to losing control over your bladder or bowels. See a doctor right away if you begin losing bladder or bowel control.
  • Spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is a defect or fracture of one or both of the wing-shaped parts of a vertebra. These "wings" help keep the vertebrae in place. When a "wing" is absent, defective from birth, or damaged, a vertebra can slide forward or backward over the bone below, sometimes pressing on the spinal cord or a nerve root.
  • Spondylosis. Spondylosis is age-related change of the bones (vertebrae) and discs of the spine. These changes are often called degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. These changes don't always cause symptoms. But they are a common cause of spine problems that can range from mild to severe.
  • Sprains and Strains (Neck and Back). A sprain is an injury to the tough ropey fibers (ligaments) that connect bone to bone. Most muscle strains (pulled muscles) are caused by overstretching muscles. Strains may be minor or severe, such as a torn muscle or tendon.
  • Tendon Pain. Tendon pain can be caused by a number of factors. Tendons are the tough fibers that connect your muscle to your bones. Through aging, overuse or injury, these tendons can get small tears and scarring that make movement very painful.

Our skilled orthopaedic specialists and neurosurgeons also treat a variety of spinal tumors, including:

  • Hemangioblastoma. Hemangioblastoma is a benign, highly vascular tumor that can occur in the spinal cord.
  • Meningioma. Meningioma is a tumor that forms on membranes that cover the spinal cord.
  • Metastatic tumor. A metastatic tumor is a type of cancer that can spread to other parts of the body through the lymph system or bloodstream.
  • Neurofibroma. A neurofibroma is a type of nerve tumor that forms soft bumps under the skin. It can develop on any major or minor nerve within the body.
  • Schwannoma. Schwannoma is a tumor of the tissue that covers nerves (called the nerve sheath). These tumors are often non-cancerous.

Getting Diagnosed

Determining the source of your back pain is an important first step to effectively treating your condition. UPMC Spine Care uses a variety of diagnostic services to arrive at a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

Browse all of the diagnostic tests offered at UPMC in Central Pa.

Non-surgical and Surgical Treatment Options

Whether your condition is common or complex, the staff at UPMC Spine Care will provide a fast, accurate diagnosis and the treatment you need. Although nearly 90 percent of our patients recover with nonsurgical treatments, our board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, and orthopaedic surgeons are there for you in the event that your condition requires surgery. 

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