Back & Neck
YOUR SPINE Your spine provides your body with structural support and protects your spinal cord. The spine consists of 24 bones known as ‘vertebrae’ which are stacked on top of each other. Doctors describe the spine as being divided into five regions:. * cervical (7 vertebrae), thoracic (12 vertebrae), lumbar (5 vertebrae) sacrum and coccyx.
The spine is capable of complex movements. Between each vertebra is a disc that serves as a spongy cushion that absorbs the shock created when you walk, run, and move. Ligaments hold the vertebrae and discs together and tendons attach muscles to the spine. When you contract your muscles to move your spine, the ligaments are elastic and the spinal column bends and twists.
Low back pain is not a specific disease, rather it is a symptom that may occur from a variety of different processes. Low back pain is often caused by overuse, strain, or injury. For instance, people often hurt their backs playing sports or working in the yard or being jolted in a car accident.
Understanding the cause of your back pain is the key to proper treatment. Because back pain can be difficult to treat, a better understanding of the causes of this problem will assist patients in their recovery from back pain.
Causes of Back Pain
Low back pain is second only to the common cold as a cause of lost days at work. It is also one of the most common reasons to visit a doctor’s office or a hospital’s emergency department. It is the second most common neurologic complaint in the United States, second only to headache.
Lumbar Muscle Strain
Muscle strains are the most common cause of low back pain. Patients may or may not remember the initial event that triggered their muscle spasm, but the good news is that most episodes of back pain from muscle strains resolve completely within a few weeks.
A ruptured intervertebral disc, also called a herniated disc, is another common cause of back pain. How to treat the back pain from a herniated disc depends on the particular individual and situation.
Discogenic Back Pain
Discogenic back pain is thought to be a common cause of low back pain. Discogenic back pain is the result of damage to the intervertabral disc, but without disc herniation. Diagnosis of discogenic back pain may require the use of a discogram.
Spinal stenosis causes back pain in the aging population. As we age, the spinal canal can become constricted, due in part to arthritis and other conditions. If the spinal canal becomes too tight, back pain can be the result.
Lumbar Spine Arthritis
Arthritis most commonly affects joints such as the knees and fingers. However, arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the small joints of the spine. Arthritis of the spine can cause back pain with movement.
Spondylolisthesis causes back pain because adjacent vertebra become unstable and begin to “slip.” The most common cause of spondylolisthesis is due to degenerative changes causing loss of the normal stabilizing structures of the spinal column. If the spine becomes unstable enough, back pain can become a problem.
Osteoporosis can cause a number of orthopedic problems and generalized discomfort. Back pain from osteoporosis is most commonly related to compression fractures of the vertebra. Osteoporosis causes weak bones and can lead to these fractures.