Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world and it’s the second biggest reason why people need to visit a doctor. It’s certainly a pity we aren’t taught to care for our backs at a very young age. We just take our spine for granted, not realizing that it can easily be injured.
Before we look at common back pain problems, let’s first look at the ‘back’. The back starts from the neck and goes all the way down to the coccyx, or tailbone.
The back includes the vertebrae, the disks between each vertebra, the ligaments and muscles which hold the spine, and many, many nerves. The back supports our body and if something goes wrong, it can affect our life dramatically.
Back Pain – Acute or Chronic
A back problem is almost always first detected when pain is felt. It’s the body’s way of letting you consciously know something is not right.
Acute back pain is often a symptom of a bone fracture, a disk herniation or sprained ligament. During the first few days of developing an injury, acute pain will radiate from the affected area. The sensation of pain usually limits the person from doing any physical movement. This is because movement generally exacerbates the pain.
Chronic pain is when the back pain seems to never end. It may be felt day after day, year after year. The healing time is prolonged as the injury sustained may require a lengthy healing process.
Chronic back pain may also be due to improper lifting techniques, excess body weight and/or a lack of exercise.
Here are some of the most common back problems.
Sprain or Strain
When any of the ligaments or joints that support the spine become injured a sprain may occur. On the other hand, a strain can be experienced as a result of an injured tendon and/or muscle. A spinal sprain is common to those who experience a fall or accident.
This is an injury to the cervical vertebrae and usually to the supporting tissues of the cervical vertebrae. Whiplash occurs as a result of a sudden forward acceleration or jerking of the head, which is common in car accidents. Whiplash symptoms include the reduced ability to move the neck, muscle spasms and pain, visual changes and nausea.
Scoliosis is characterized by a sideway curvature of the spine. This condition usually starts with the spine having a primary curve to one side, then developing another curvature to the opposite side as a way of compensating for the primary curvature. This leads to an “S” formation of the spine.
This condition often starts in childhood and may worsen as the skeletal system reaches its maturity. Unfortunately, because most early cases of scoliosis do not cause any pain, the presence of scoliosis is not detected until adolescence or adulthood, when chronic back pain may begin.
Herniated Disk and Spinal Nerve Compression
A spinal nerve compression can cause debilitating back pain. Some conditions that cause nerve compression include a herniated disk. A herniated disk is also referred to as a ruptured disk.
Most cases of a herniated disk occur in the lumbar spine, however, there are also cases of herniated disks in the neck. The herniated disk can cause irritation to the nerves thereby adding to the pain. Many people develop sciatic pain from having a herniated disk, which can cause weakness and numbness in the legs.
Quite often surgery is recommended for those patient’s suffering from herniated disk pain. However, get a second and/or third opinion before making this life decision.
This is the result of the body aging. The body’s intervertebral disks will exhibit a diminished water volume which results in their dehydration. This triggers a change in the disks shape and height. In turn, the space between two vertebrae narrows and they can eventually touch and rub on each other.
This change can negatively impact the spine as an overgrowth of ligaments may take place. This results in chronic back pain.
Stenosis is a medical term which means that an area that is normally open becomes narrowed. A congenital condition is one of the causes why a spinal canal may narrow. This spinal canal serves as the place where the spinal cord lies.
In some cases it is caused by degenerative changes brought about by arthritis. The symptoms are somewhat similar to spinal cord or nerve root compression. It often affects the lumbar region. Irritation and dysfunction of the nerve roots can be experienced.
These are just a few common back pain problems, but if you feel any pain the back at all, it’s time to visit your doctor to find out what is causing it.