Where Back Pain Begins
Back pain is the body’s natural response to injury or degenerative conditions of the spine.
The back is one of our most important anatomic structures, providing support and facilitating mobility and balance for the entire body, as well as protecting the spinal cord. Because of the loads placed on it each and every day, it’s no surprise this well-designed structure, consisting of bones (vertebrae), discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves, is particularly susceptible to injury and other conditions.
When you feel pain, it’s your body’s natural reaction to signals transmitted from the pain source, which travel through the nerves in the spinal cord and up to the brain, where they are perceived as pain.
What's Causing Back Pain?
Many sudden attacks of acute back pain are the result of overstretched muscles (strains) or ligaments (sprains). The pain may be most severe immediately after injury, or it may worsen gradually over a few hours. In most instances, back pain as a result of strain or sprain can be resolved following a conservative course of treatment – usually within two to six weeks – provided there are no serious underlying medical conditions.
Common causes of strains and sprains that can trigger acute back pain include:
- Improper lifting
- Sudden, strenuous physical effort
- Accident, sports injury or fall
- Sleeping position and/or pillow positioning
- Poor sitting or standing posture
- Bending forward too long
- Hiking” your shoulder to hold the phone receiver to your ear
- Carrying a heavy purse, briefcase or backpack
- Stress and muscle tension
Physical conditions that can possibly contribute to the onset of acute back pain include:
- Lack of muscle tone
- Excess weight
Other causes of back pain include:
Mechanical Disorders: Many people who suffer from back problems are experiencing mechanical pain, which means that a specific part of their spine, such as an intervertebral disc, a ligament, or a joint is damaged and is not working correctly. Examples of spinal mechanical disorders include degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylolysis/spondylolysthesis, arthritis and spinal stenosis.
Developmental Disorders: Developmental disorders of the lower back are caused by abnormalities in the formation and growth of the skeleton. Although the treatment for many of these conditions is conservative, surgery may be required to keep some disorders from worsening, and in order to prevent long-term disability and or deformity. Scoliosis and kyphosis are examples of developmental disorders of the spine.
Inflammatory and Infectious Disorders: Infections of the spinal column are not common, but they are important because they are difficult to diagnose and there are serious consequences in the delay of an accurate diagnosis.