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Got a Back or Spine Injury?

This May Be Why

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and one of the main reasons why people visit the doctor. This could be due to the vastly complex nature of the spine that protects the body’s central nervous system. Whether from an athletic injury or a work-related accident, back pain can range from mild discomfort to debilitating if left untreated. 

Spine Anatomy

Spinal anatomy is an impressive combination of bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves. The spine consists of: 

  • Vertebrae: 33 small stacked bones that form the spinal canal
  • Intervertebral discs: flat, round cushions that are in between the vertebrae and act as the spine’s shock absorbers
  • Spinal cord and nerves: column of nerves that is along the spinal canal, with pairs of nerve branches expanding out through the vertebral openings
  • Facet joints: spinal joints with cartilage that provide flexibility and stability, and allow your vertebrae to twist and turn
  • Soft tissues: these muscles, ligaments, and tendons help to hold the spine in position and aid movement. 

Additionally, the spine is segmented into three regions:

  • Cervical spine: top seven vertebrae towards the neck
  • Thoracic spine: the middle 12 vertebrae in the upper back
  • Lumbar spine: the 5 vertebrae in the lower back

The spine is critical for body support and movement, and spine health is essential to maintain overall health. Since it is such an intricate structure, the back is vulnerable to a myriad of health conditions. 

Common Conditions that Cause Back Pain

Herniated Disc

Also known as a slipped disc, a herniated disc occurs when the gel-like center of an intervertebral disc pushes through a weak spot in the bone. When the disc makes contact with a nerve, it can cause pain and discomfort in the lower back. Symptoms of a bulging disc are:

  • Pain, usually at the base of the spine
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Less mobility in the legs
  • Decreased bladder and bowel control 
  • Reduced coordination
  • Difficulty walking

There are a few different ways that a herniated disc can occur, such as through intense physical activity, chronic obesity, natural aging, or a traumatic accident. People who have a family history of back problems also tend to be more prone to developing a herniated disc. 

Fortunately, by maintaining an active lifestyle, eating healthy, sleeping on a firm mattress, practicing correct posture, and avoiding tobacco products, you can considerably reduce your risk of disc herniation. 

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine is curved to the side or twisted. Most often diagnosed in adolescence, scoliosis can be mild or worsen as time progresses. Severe scoliosis can be debilitating, as it can reduce the amount of space in your chest, making it difficult for your lungs to fully expand. Some signs of scoliosis are: 

  • Visibly curved spine
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One hip higher than the other
  • One side of the rib cage sticking out
  • Uneven waist
  • Ill-fitting clothing

Although the cause of scoliosis is unknown, there are some cases where the bones in the spine do not form properly in the womb, called congenital scoliosis. Cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy may also result in scoliosis. 

Facet Joint Pain

The facet joints in your back promote healthy movement and provide stability to your spine. However, the effects of aging or a traumatic injury can lead to facet joint syndrome. With facet joint syndrome, the cartilage inside the facet joint can break down or become inflamed, which triggers pain. The facet joints in your lumbar spine are the most prone to facet joint syndrome since the lower back bears the most weight, but it can also occur in the cervical and thoracic spine as well. 

Based on the section of the spinal column affected, facet joint syndrome symptoms can vary. 

  • Cervical: neck and shoulder pain, difficulty rotating head, headaches
  • Thoracic: pain in your mid back, restricted range of motion
  • Lumbar: lower back pain, pain in buttcoks and thighs, difficulty standing up straight, or rising from a sitting position

Treatment for facet pain can include posture correction, soft tissue massages, NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, radiofrequency ablation, and spinal manipulation therapy. This therapy is a technique that uses manual force to adjust the spine to improve joint mobility and decrease pain.

Instability

Spinal instability, also known as lumbar instability, occurs when there is abnormal mobility between two vertebrae. This increased range of motion between vertebrae causes disc degeneration to the extent that the vertebrae can no longer support the weight of the body. 

As a result, there is severe pain in the back when straightening the spine or lifting objects, muscles spasms, radiating pain down the legs, and sometimes numbness in the arms and lower extremities. Spinal instability can be caused by: 

  • Degeneration: long-term incorrect posture, poor physical conditions, muscular insufficiency, sedentary lifestyle, obesity 
  • External trauma or fracture 
  • Congenital defects 
  • Scoliosis
  • Metastatic tumors in the spine

Paired with painkillers and NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation, physical therapy can treat mild cases of lumbar instability by strengthening the muscles in the spine.

Physical Therapy Treatments for Back and Spine Pain

At Reshape Physical Therapy, we offer multiple treatments that cover the back and spine such as: Cervical Spine Treatments, Thoracic Spine Treatments and Lumbar Spine Treatments. If these interest you, fill out the form below.

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