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What Causes Thickened Spinal Ligaments, and What Can Be Done About It?

What Causes Thickened Spinal Ligaments, and What Can Be Done About It?

Your spine is a very complex structure made up of multiple components. If anything goes wrong with any of these parts, the result can be very painful. Thickened ligaments are one relatively common cause of chronic back pain, especially if you’re older.

At Pacific Sports and Spine in Roseburg and Eugene, Oregon, our team uses advanced diagnostic methods to understand the cause of painful spine-related symptoms, including symptoms caused by thickened ligaments. 

Here’s how your ligaments could be playing a role in your painful back symptoms.

Basic spine anatomy

Your spine is composed of many structures, including bones (vertebrae) and ligaments, strong fibrous bands of tissue that hold the vertebrae together in series. These ligaments help your spine move while also keeping it stable.

Some ligaments extend the entire length of your spine, from the base of your skull to your pelvis. Other, shorter ligaments connect pairs of vertebrae. 

Each vertebra has a hole in its center. When these holes line up, they create a canal that contains the nerves as they travel from your brain to every other part of your body. Healthy ligaments protect these nerves and maintain a healthy spinal canal.

Why spinal ligaments thicken

Spinal ligaments are made up of about 80% elastic fibers and 20% collagen fibers. Their elastic nature helps your spine stay flexible, and it also prevents the ligaments from pressing on the nerves that travel through the canal.

As you age, the elastic fibers are slowly replaced by collagen, which is much less flexible. Over time, the ligaments grow stiffer and thicker — up to 10 times thicker than normal.

As thickening continues, the ligaments begin to crowd the spinal canal, causing a condition called spinal stenosis (literally, spinal narrowing). Nerves inside the spinal canal are compressed or pinched, resulting in significant pain.

Thickening can also be the result of inflammation in or around the spine, including inflammation from arthritis. Chronic inflammation causes tiny tears in the ligaments. These tears are eventually replaced by thick, stiff scar tissue that also presses on nerves inside the spinal canal.

Treating spinal stenosis

We offer an array of treatments to help our patients with spinal stenosis symptoms, including the state-of-the-art VertiflexTM Procedure Superion™ Indirect Decompression System

This minimally invasive procedure uses special spinal implants designed to gently widen the space between your vertebrae, relieving pressure on the affected nerves.

We place the implants through a narrow tube that we insert into your spine via a very small incision. Vertiflex eliminates the need for larger incisions, enabling you to recover more quickly and comfortably.

We may treat milder cases of spinal stenosis with physical therapy, medication, and spinal injections. Your treatment depends on your symptoms, the extent of the stenosis, your health, and other factors.

Find relief for your back pain

Thickened ligaments are one cause of back-related pain, but there are many other issues that can cause similar symptoms. Early diagnosis is the key to relieving your symptoms as quickly as possible. 

To learn how our team at Pacific Sports and Spine can help relieve your spine pain, book an appointment by calling us today.

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