New York Spine Institute Spine Services

Spine Conditions

Animated image showing the skeleton of a human back

Spinal Anatomy

Although neck and back problems can be fairly common they are never routine. Because they can be very painful and can impact your health and well being, each condition we encounter at New York Spine Institute is handled with special, careful attention. We treat your spine problem as a unique situation, because it is. This way we can give you the most fitting care for your particular needs – care that’s founded on experience and sound medical principles.

Spinal Anatomy:
Spinal Anatomy
Abnormal Spinal Anatomy



Arthritis is when the cartilage wears away between the joints. The most common areas, people experience this is in the hands, back, hips and knees. As this happens, people will begin to experience pain, swelling and stiff joints.


As we age, the normal wear-and-tear on our spine, can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal. This compresses the spinal cord. Most individuals experience neck pain and stiffness, numbness and tingling in their arms and hands, clumsiness when it comes to simple tasks (handwriting, tieing ones shoe, feeding) and loss of balance.


Chordoma is a rare tumor that usually occurs in the spine and base of the skull. It is a malignant tumor that grows fairly slowly. It can spread to other organs, usually the lungs. It represents only about 1 percent of all malignant bone tumors.


Degenerative disc disease/disorder (DDD) occurs when the discs between our vertebraes begin to wear down, causing the vertebral bones to get closer together. As this process happens, the discs can bulge, which can result in compressed spinal nerves or spinal cord. Although this is a natural process in aging, certain situations, such as a car accident, can accelerate the process. As this happens, people will begin to feel back pain in the area of degeneration.


Degenerative spondylolisthesis occurs when a forward slip of the vertebrae of one vertebral body over the one below. As stated above in DDD, the loss of height along with increased stresses can cause the vertebrae to move forward. Individuals mainly feel this in the lower lumbar, where symptoms such as acute back pain and/or leg pain, numbness and tingling can occur.


Herniated disc occurs when the disc bulges out of its normal casing and into the spinal column. This can cause back pain due to the compression of spinal nerves and/or spinal cord. Most individuals have back pain and some can experience numbness or tingling radiating down the legs due to a compression of a spinal nerve. This is also called sciatic pain.


This is also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, is a progressive disease of the joints. With osteoarthritis, the articular cartilage that covers the ends of bones in the joints gradually wears away. Where there was once smooth articular cartilage that made the bones move easily against each other when the joint bent and straightened, there is now a frayed, rough surface. Joint motion along this exposed surface is painful. Osteoarthritis usually develops after many years of use. It affects people who are middle-aged or older. Other risk factors for osteoarthritis include obesity, previous injury to the affected joint, and family history of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, with symptoms ranging from mild to disabling. A joint affected by osteoarthritis may be painful and inflamed. Without cartilage, bones rub directly against each other when the joint moves. This is what causes the pain and inflammation. Pain or a dull ache usually develops gradually over time. Pain may be worse in the morning and feel better with activity. Vigorous activity may cause pain to flare up.


As we get older, our bones thin and our bone strength decreases. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become very weak and more likely to break. It often develops unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort until a bone breaks. Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine. These spinal fractures „ called vertebral compression fractures „ occur in nearly 700,000 patients each year. They are almost twice as common as other fractures typically linked to osteoporosis, such as broken hips and wrists. Not all vertebral compression fractures are due to osteoporosis. But when the disease is involved, a vertebral compression fracture is often a patient’s first sign of a weakened skeleton from osteoporosis. Individuals mainly describe back pain near the fractures. The pain often gets worse with standing or sitting for a period of time, and is often relieved by rest or lying down. Although the pain may move to other areas of the body (for example, into the abdomen or down the legs), this is uncommon.


Sciatica is pain that radiates from your lower back down through your legs when your sciatic nerve becomes compressed, inflamed or irritated. This nerve exits the spinal cord at the end of the lumbar spine.


Scoliosis is an abnormal rotation of the spine that can result from developmental abnormalities or severe degeneration. Typical this manifests as a curvature displacing the spine to the side, either to the left or right of midline. Scoliosis can affect both children and adults. Among children, it typically ocurs closer to the age of puberty, and can be associated with symptoms like abnormal appearance of the trunk, difficulty breathing, chest or back pain. In adults, this spinal deformity may cause abnormal posture, back pain and possibly leg symptoms, if pressure on the nerves is involved.

There are many different types of scoliosis. Some of the more common include the following:

 Idiopathic Scoliosis – arises from unknown causes. This typically occurs early in life and can progress in around the time of puberty. It can also run in some families.

Neuromuscular Scoliosis – when abnormal curve is attributed to weakening of the musculature that is supporting the spine or improper functioning of the nerves.

Degenerative Scoliosis – occurs in an older population and attributed to the wear-and-tear causing the disc breakdown between each vertebra and arthritis in the facet joints of spinal column.

Congenital Scoliosis – results from problems with the normal growth of the spinal column. It can be associated with the defects in other organ systems.

Scoliosis is easily diagnosed and more easily treated when recognized at a younger age. Treatment can range from simple bracing when it is diagnosed early to surgical correction at more advanced stages. Simple X-ray films can be used to measure the degree of the curve and monitor progression.


Spinal Stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the cord and spinal nerves. When the disks collapse anddevelops, your body may respond by growing new bone in your facet joints to help support the vertebrae. Over time, this bone overgrowth – called spurs – can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal. Osteoarthritis can also cause the ligaments that connect vertebrae to thicken, which can narrow the spinal canal.


The most common cause of low back pain in adolescent athletes that can be seen on X-ray is a stress fracture in one of the bones that make up the spinal column. Technically, this condition is called spondylolysis. It usually affects the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back and, much less commonly, the fourth lumbar vertebra. If the stress fracture weakens the bone so much that it is unable to maintain its proper position, the vertebra can start to shift out of place. This condition is called spondylolisthesis. If too much slippage occurs, the bones may begin to press on nerves and surgery may be necessary to correct the condition.


Tumors of the spine can be primary or metastatic (spreading from other organs). Symptoms can vary from person to person with most common symptom of pain at the site of the tumor, other can vary from location or size of the mass and include fractures, numbness, loss of bowel or bladder function.

Diagnosis can be made using MRI or Computed Tomography imaging to access the involvement.

Intramedullary tumors – Astrocytomas, Ependymomas and Hemangioblastomas. All arise from cells that compose brain and spinal cord or surrounding blood vessels; located commonly within the covering of the brain and spine. Composed of the soft tissue, does not involve the bone or cartilage.

Extradural tumors – found outside of the spinal cord covering, and is the most common type of spinal cord tumors. Can be malignant or benign and include osteosarcomas, osteoblastomas, and osteoid osteomas. These can involve bone cartilage and other surrounding tissue. Metastases spreading from the lungs, breasts, prostate, and kidneys are more most common cause of above mentioned class of tumors.

Intradural-extramedullary – masses arising in-between the spinal cord and its protective outer covering, include tumors like Schwannomas, and Meningiomas.