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Spinal Instability Specialists

The Metropolitan Neurosurgery Group -  - Neurosurgery

The Metropolitan Neurosurgery Group

Neurosurgery located in Silver Spring, MD

Spinal instability can be an annoyance or a serious medical issue that requires immediate attention. No matter the cause of your spinal instability, the board-certified neurosurgeons at The Metropolitan Neurosurgery Group in Silver Spring, Maryland, can help. With decades of experience, compassion, and attention to detail, they provide diligent diagnosis and treatment. To schedule a visit, call today.

Spinal Instability Q & A

What is Spinal Instability?

Spinal instability is a general term for conditions of the spine that lead to excess, abnormal movement of the spinal joints. Spinal instability can refer to one or more vertebrae in the spinal column that moves either too much or in abnormal patterns causing pain and dysfunction of the spine.

Spinal instability has a variety of causes, including:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Arthritis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Fractures
  • Trauma 
  • Spinal dislocations
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Genetic inheritance


Spinal instability is graded based on the severity of the instability, from mildly to severely unstable. Some conditions may be mildly unstable but cause problematic symptoms — like a compression fracture due to osteoporosis — and require immediate treatment to avoid further damage or disability.

What are the Symptoms of Spinal Instability?

Symptoms of spinal instability vary depending on the location and cause of the instability. Common symptoms you may experience if you have spinal instability include:

  • Neck, back, or spinal pain
  • A sliding or catching sensation in your spine when you bend, twist, or move
  • Stabbing pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Feeling like your back is “locked up”
  • Headaches


You may have additional symptoms related to your condition, like generalized joint pain or excess joint flexibility — called hypermobility. Your The Metropolitan Neurosurgery Group provider asks about all of your symptoms to determine if your condition is specific to a single area of your spine or has body-wide effects, like those of genetic conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

How is Spinal Instability Diagnosed?

During the exam at The Metropolitan Neurosurgery Group, your provider asks about your symptoms and when they occur along with your medical history and any traumatic experiences that may contribute to your discomfort. They then take flexion and extension X-rays of your spine in different positions. These X-rays may involve bending forward or backward or holding your mouth open.

Your provider analyzes your X-rays — and additional imaging like MRIs or CT scans, if needed — to determine the cause of your spinal instability. They also measure the areas of instability to determine how unstable each segment of your spine is, which determines the severity of your condition.

How is Spinal Instability Treated?

Based on your diagnosis and the severity of your condition, your provider recommends an appropriate course of care. In some instances, bracing and physical therapy can help you regain stability while other conditions require surgical repair like a spinal fusion to avoid permanent damage to your spine.

To find out the cause of your spinal issues and whether you have spinal instability, call The Metropolitan Neurosurgery Group.