Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Spine and Back Health

C spine osteophyte with straightening??

10/10/2008

Question:

I am way past confused at this point. I had an x-ray 3 years ago and had c5-6 narrowing and reversal lordosis with an early osteophyte formation. No impingement. I was told I had arthritis, and deal with it at the time. For the past few years my back, arm and neck are worse. I saw an ortho today. He said he was worried about the straightening?? What does that mean?? I have an MRI tomorrow. I`m a little scared, from what i`ve read, about all of this. I`ve also had 3 years of worsening bladder control. Is this a symptom?? And why did the ortho say straightening?? please write back. I do work in the medical field so I understand most terms, but not all of them.

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. If you look at a person standing sideways (in profile), facing to your left, their spine normally has a certain curvature to it. The Thoracic spine (the middle part where the ribs attach) is shaped like a backwards 'C' This is called 'kyphosis'. The lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck) normally are curved the other way, like a 'C'. This is called 'lordosis'.

When people's cervical spines start to degenerate, the discs usually begin to dehydrate, and they start to shrink. Since the discs are in the front of the spine, the total height of the front part of the neck decreases, but the back stays the same. The result is that the spine starts to ?straighten?, looking more like a straight up-and-down line. Eventually, it can begin to bend forward the wrong way, and become 'kyphotic'. That's what this refers to.

The 'straightening' of the spine is just a symptom of some degeneration of the spine, and is common in people with disc disease. It doesn't necessarily mean anything bad is going to happen to you, though. I can't tell you whether your bladder problem is related to your neck issues. You need to ask your doctor about that. Good luck.

For more information:

Go to the Spine and Back Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University