Disorders of the Nervous System
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The nervous system is a complex, highly specialized network. It organizes, explains, and directs interactions between you and the world around you. The nervous system controls:
- Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and feeling (sensation)
- Voluntary and involuntary functions, such as movement, balance, and coordination
- Regulation of most other body systems, such as blood flow and blood pressure
- Ability to think and reason
There are many different types of nervous system disorders, including scoliosis and spina bifida, which cause pain.
Why Choose Weill Cornell Medicine?
The physicians at Weill Cornell Medicine Division of Pain Management are experts in helping those with nervous system disorders alleviate pain.
Using the latest research, the most advanced equipment, and innovative therapies, the physicians diagnose pain and develop customized pain management plans for each patient. We work closely with a broad team of specialists to help our patients regain independence, functionality, and improve their quality of life.
The collaborative team at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Center for Comprehensive Spine Care draws on clinical knowledge from neurology, neurosurgery, rehabilitation medicine, and pain management.
After assessing your case, we will tailor a treatment plan that may include medication, pain management, and physical therapy. When surgery is part of the plan, we offer the most advanced minimally invasive techniques.
Weill Cornell Medicine also offers clinical trials, giving patients access to treatments that may not be widely available. Learn more about Pain Management's current clinical trials.
Scoliosis is a large curvature of the spine. It may be caused by a spinal abnormality or by a difference in leg length.
If this curve is severe, it can cause pain and make breathing difficult. Learn more about scoliosis.
Because the severity of scoliosis can vary from person to person, the symptoms of scoliosis will vary in intensity. A curve of more than 20 degrees may require treatment.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Uneven shoulder blades; sometimes one shoulder blade will stick out further than the other
- Head off-center from the pelvis, along with an uneven alignment or asymmetrical-looking spine
- Unevenly aligned hips; one hip may be higher than the other
- Uneven rib cage
- Uneven waist
- Overall leaning to one side
- Difficulty breathing (especially in cases of severe congenital or neuromuscular scoliosis)
Mild cases of scoliosis usually go unnoticed, but if there is pain or visible symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Pediatricians may note signs of possible scoliosis during routine checkups.
Mild cases of scoliosis usually do not need treatment. Some people may use nonprescription medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen to treat back pain. While these medicines may relieve symptoms of back pain for a brief time, they do not heal scoliosis or back injuries.
Along with medication, other steps that help to support or promote good health, such as regular exercise and proper back care, may help relieve back pain for some adults. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you learn ways to move and rest that will help ease the pain, as well as ways to stay active without increasing your symptoms. If the pain makes it hard to do your daily activities, your doctor may recommend surgery.
For actively growing children with scoliosis curves between 20 and 50 degrees, bracing is recommended. An external torso brace is worn for a prescribed number of hours. The brace applies corrective pressure to the growing spine, preventing further worsening of the scoliosis.
Spina bifida is a type of birth defect that occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) don’t form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. Spina bifida can be mild or severe. When severe, it may be accompanied by nerve damage to the nerves that supply the lower part of the body. Learn more about spina bifida.
Spina Bifida Symptoms
The symptoms of a nervous system problem depend on which area of the nervous system is involved and what is causing the problem. Nervous system problems may occur slowly and cause a gradual loss of function (degenerative).
Most children with the mild form of spina bifida don’t have any problems from it. Children with the most severe form of spina bifida often have spine and brain issues that cause serious problems. They may have:
- Little or no feeling in their legs, feet, or arms
- Bladder or bowel problems
- Fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus)
- A curve in their spine, such as scoliosis
Spina Bifida Treatments
Most children with the mild form of spina bifida do not need treatment. In severe cases, surgery by a neurosurgeon is done within the first 48 hours of life. This surgery involves closing the defect.
As children with severe spina bifida grow, other treatments and surgeries may be needed to manage problems that arise. The musculoskeletal imbalances resulting from spinal cord defect are managed with a combination of physical therapy for strengthening and stretching, braces to support the knees and ankles while standing, and surgery to correct any structural misalignment.
There are many specialists involved in the care of a child with spina bifida. These children are often best managed through a multidisciplinary approach, including neurosurgery, orthopedics, urology, orthotics, pain management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, primary care, and nutrition.
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Contact us to learn more about the ways we treat disorders of the nervous system, including scoliosis and spina bifida.