February 28 is Rare Disease Day and we wanted to use this opportunity to bring awareness to some of the rare diseases that can impact a person’s spinal health. At NJ Spine and Wellness, we treat patients with everything from common issues like back pain to those that have chronic or rare diseases. We think it’s important to shed light on these rare disorders to help patients recognize any symptoms and understand their treatment options. We’re going to take a closer look at the following three disorders that can impact your spinal health: Syringomyelia, Transverse myelitis and Arachnoiditis.
Syringomyelia is the development of a fluid-filled cyst (syrinx) within your spinal cord. Over time, the cyst may get larger, causing damage to your spinal cord, pain, weakness, stiffness and other symptoms. The majority of Syringomyelia cases are caused by a condition in which brain tissue protrudes into your spinal canal (Chiari malformation). Other causes include spinal cord tumors, spinal cord injuries and damage caused by inflammation around your spinal cord.
Early symptoms of Syringomyelia include muscle weakness, loss of reflexes and loss of sensitivity. Patients usually first experience these symptoms in the back of their neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Other symptoms can include:
It’s important to see your doctor if you are experiencing any of the signs of Syringomyelia. If you’ve experienced a spinal cord injury, it’s also a good idea to monitor for any of these symptoms and know that the condition can develop months or even years after an injury.
Treatment for syringomyelia varies depending on the severity of a person’s symptoms and the impact it has on their daily life. In more serious cases, surgery may be recommended, but there are steps you can take to help you manage your symptoms day-to-day. It’s important for Syringomyelia patients to avoid activities that can put further strain on the spine, such as heavy lifting. It’s also beneficial to work with a physical therapist, especially if you are experiencing a decrease in your mobility due to your symptoms. A physical therapist can create a customized exercise program to keep you active while reducing symptoms like muscle pain, weakness or stiffness. The best approach for treating chronic pain due to Syringomyelia is to have a health care team that includes your neurosurgeon, neurologist, a rehabilitation specialist and a pain management physician work together to create an appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.
Living with Syringomyelia and its symptoms can be challenging, but it can be managed. Make sure to discuss everything you are experiencing with your doctor and find sources of support to help you through it.
Another rare disease we’d like to highlight is Transverse myelitis, which is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Transverse myelitis usually impacts both sides of the body below the affected area of the spinal cord, but sometimes symptoms are only experienced on one side of the body. Typical symptoms include:
Researchers do not know the exact causes of Transverse myelitis, but the following illnesses and agents are have associations with the disorder:
When it comes to treatment for Transverse myelitis, several therapies may be used including intravenous steroids, plasma exchange therapy and pain medications. To help with long-term recovery, physical therapy can be used to improve strength and coordination. A physical therapist can also help the patient to learn how to use devices like a wheelchair, cane, etc. if needed. Occupational therapy can also help the patient learn new ways of performing their daily tasks, including caring for themselves, cooking, cleaning and so on.
Most people with Transverse myelitis do make at least a partial recovery although it can take time to make progress. After an attack, some people may experience minimal symptoms, others may continue to have difficulty walking and can experience slight symptoms, and in the more severe cases, people may permanently need assistance and/or need to use a wheelchair. Again, it’s important to speak to your doctor if you experience any symptoms and to receive ongoing support throughout your recovery.
Arachnoiditis is a pain disorder caused by inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surrounds and protects the nerves of the spinal cord. The most common symptom is pain, but people may also experience:
The main causes of Arachnoiditis include:
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Arachnoiditis, but a number of treatments can be implemented to reduce pain. Options for pain relief may include spinal cord stimulation, pain medications and physical therapy treatments including hydrotherapy, massage, and hot/cold therapy.
Although these conditions are rare, we encourage anyone who is experiencing abnormal symptoms like pain, weakness or sensations in the back, neck, arms or legs to see a doctor. Whether your pain is related to a common issue or a rare disease, NJ Spine and Wellness is here to help with everything from physical therapy to pain management and occupational therapy. You can make an appointment for a consultation by calling us at 877-333-6579.
We also encourage you to spread awareness about a rare disease that has impacted you or someone you know as there are many others out there.