Back pain is a condition that hardly seems to discriminate. People young and old will experience it for a myriad of reasons. Men and women are equally impacted. Your back can hurt because of too much activity or too little. Many cases of back pain are short-term and are frequently self-limiting, meaning that they will clear up on their own with little to no care. In these cases, the pain or discomfort can usually be attributed to a singular event, for example, hurting your back working in the garden, lifting something a bit too heavy, or a funny golf swing. For many others, though, back pain becomes a chronic condition that can range from a daily annoyance to an incapacitating condition. When back pain becomes debilitating and frequent, even basic daily tasks like putting your socks on or driving a car can start to feel impossible.
Why is My Back Vulnerable to Pain and Injury?
Your back is a complex structure. It must be sturdy enough to bear weight and flexible enough to accommodate your movements. It is an interwoven blend of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work alongside nerves and blood vessels in one coordinated fashion. This combination of strength and flexibility is easy to take for granted when everything is working as it should. It is only when one of these components begins to function abnormally that we begin to develop discomfort, pain and a loss of normal function.
Many parts of the back and spine can cause pain:
- The muscles of your back can be strained as a result of overuse, overtraining, and injury
- Spinal ligaments, just like the ligaments in your ankle or knee, can be sprained or damaged as a result of an injury such as a motor vehicle accident
- The discs that separate the vertebrae can be injured or degenerate over time, causing a disc bulge or herniation
- Vertebrae, or the bones of your spine, can become damaged or injured
- The joints of the spine that connect each vertebra and allow for movement can degenerate and lead to pain
- Nerves and nerve roots that exit from in between each vertebra can become pinched, irritated, or injured. This can not only cause localized back pain but can start to refer pain down the arms into the hands, or down the legs into the feet depending on where the problem lies.
The Parts of the Spine & Why They Might Be Hurting
Your spine is typically divided into three segments: the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine. These regions of the spine are commonly referred to as the neck, upper/mid-back, and lower back respectively. Below the lumbar spine is the sacrum, which is the triangular bone at the base of the spine that connects the spine to the pelvis.
Causes of Cervical Spine Pain
The cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae that work to support the weight of the head, provide a wide range of motion, and protect the brainstem and spinal cord as it exits from the base of the skull. The upper part of the neck, called the upper cervical spine, is especially unique because of how those two vertebrae (C1 and C2) are shaped. These two bones account for the majority of movement of the head and since they’re so freely movable, they can be particularly vulnerable to injury.
Neck pain can happen as a result of muscular problems, ligament damage (I.e. from whiplash), disc degeneration, or nerve irritation. Some causes of neck pain can also be related to headaches, vertigo, arm pain, numbness and tingling in the hands, and other disorders.
Causes of Thoracic Spine Pain
Generally speaking, the upper and middle portions of your spine are less susceptible to experiencing pain and problems than your lower back since it doesn’t bear as much weight. The thoracic spine runs from the base of your neck to the bottom of your ribcage and is comprised of 12 vertebrae labeled T1 through T12 (T stands for thoracic).
Upper and mid-back pain can arise from poor posture, muscle strain, and herniated discs. People with osteoporosis are also at higher risk of suffering from a vertebral compression fracture in the mid-back. As with any other area of the spine, the thoracic spine can develop joint arthritis and degeneration as well. Gallbladder issues may also cause pain between the shoulder blades or around the right shoulder.
Causes of Lumbar Spine Pain
Approximately 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. There are 5 vertebrae in your lower back, and the lumbar region supports more weight than the other spinal regions do. The vertebrae are larger to accommodate for this, but the discs and tissues of the lower back can be more prone to injury because of this.
Wear and tear over time can occur in the joints, discs, and bones of the lumbar spine. Spondylolisthesis, where one vertebra slips on top of another and irritates or pinches the nerves exiting the spinal column, is common in the lower back. Lower back pain can also be associated with sciatica which can cause pain through the buttocks, down the back of the leg into the foot, and can be extremely debilitating.
Lasting Relief from Back Pain
It can be easy to think of your back and spine as separate parts, but the truth is that it’s all connected. What affects one area of the spine can easily impact other areas as well. Upper cervical chiropractic takes this simple concept into account and addresses the root cause of many back and spinal issues by realigning the uppermost vertebra in the spine, the atlas. When the atlas misaligns, it causes the head to be carried off-center. This will inevitably result in a series of compensations throughout the rest of the spine and cause pain in the upper, middle, and lower back over time.
Instead of chasing around symptoms of back pain, upper cervical chiropractic aims to address the issue at the root cause, which yields lasting relief for patients. Instead of a general approach, upper cervical care is focused, precise, and gentle. If you’re ready to gain a better understanding of the origins of your back pain and start working on a sustainable solution, then contact a nearby practitioner to schedule a consultation.
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