The backbone or spine is a crucial part of our body, essential for proper form, posture and movement. Our backbone is made up of small bones that are stacked on top of each other called vertebrae. The vertebrae protect our spinal cord and allow us to stand and bend. In between each vertebra is a circle of connective tissue with a central soft gel-like core called a disc that acts as a shock absorber and keeps the bones from rubbing against each other.
The pattern of how a person walks, or gait, is also influenced by the spine. Abnormal gait and balance can be caused due to several reasons, one of them being cervical disc degeneration.
What is cervical disc degeneration?
With age, the water and protein content of the inter-vertebral disc reduce. This makes the disc weak and fragile and results in wear and tear over time (degenerative changes). The gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae is referred to as degenerative disc disease. Degeneration of the tissues of the inter-vertebral disc makes the disc more susceptible to herniation. The herniated disc material may impinge the spinal cord causing cord degeneration. When disc degeneration affects the spine of the neck and causes cord degeneration, it is called myelomalacia.
Alterations to normal gait pattern results in gait swaying. In fact, gait swaying is an early indication of underlying spinal or neurological abnormalities. The estimate shows that around 70–85% of all people at some point in their lives suffer spine problems.
How to treat cervical disc degeneration due to gait swaying?
For most cases, treatment may include a temporary period of brace immobilization, physiotherapy exercises and medication, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medicines (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants and occasionally stronger painkillers.
If these non-surgical methods fail to give a positive result removing the disc material (disectomy) which compresses the cord along with a fusion of the vertebrae is done using bone grafts or cage.
Success of treatment of the cervical degenerative myelomalacia varies on the severity of the condition and compliance with treatment. Early signs of swaying due to myelomalacia, if treated early gives 100% recovery. If the myelomalacia is severe, prognosis is guarded.
To know more about cervical disc degeneration and to access your gait, contact Dr. Subodh Shetty at The Orthopaedic Clinic.