What causes back pain?
Back pain is and seemingly always will be a HUGE PROBLEM for many, whether you keep yourself fit and healthy or not seems to have little influence on symptoms of back pain that can arise, most typically the only thing which changes is the mechanism of injury which occurs.
Causes of back pain
The causes of back pain can be a never ending list but one thing is certain and that is the pain can be agonising! Understanding the mechanisms that create your pain is very important, as once you know the cause you can formulate a plan that will help you reduce your symptoms and help you to get back to your life.
The causes can be broken down into sections so you can better understand what has happened and the structures which can be compromised and ultimately providing you with pain, these are;
- Mechanical - Mechanical back pain is caused due to abnormal stresses being placed upon a joint, most typically this arises from bad habits such as poor posture, incorrect lifting techniques and even poorly designed office seating.
- Non Specific - Non Specific back pain is where there is no obvious cause behind your back pain.
Understanding spinal anatomy can help you to identify and resolve your pain. The spinal column is made up of 33 bones; 7 Cervical, 12 Thoracic, 5 Lumbar, 5 Sacral and 4 Coccygeal. All of these bones play an important role protecting the spinal cord, allowing muscle attachments, neurological pathways and promoting movement.
An individual vertebra (as shown above) has a very specific anatomy.
- Body - The body of the vertebra is the weight bearer which is primarily made up of cancellous bone and has a layer of compact bone to harden the surfaces. Each body is flat and rough to provide attachment for intervertebral discs.
- Intervertebral Discs - Intervertebral discs are the cushion which act as a shock absorber that lies in-between each individual vertebra.
- Transverse Process - Transverse processes provide origin and insertion points for muscles and ligaments. They also provide a point of articulation for the ribs.
- Spinous Process - Spinous Processes are a bony point that protrude off the vertebrae providing attachment sites to muscle and ligaments of the spine.
Moving on from vertebrae of the spine and towards the understanding of nerves and their function on the body. Nerves connect the Central Nervous System (CNS) to organs and muscles via the spinal cord. Nerves are divided into 2 categories, sensory (afferent) and Motor (efferent), which are further split into subcategories somatic and visceral.
Sensory nerves carry impulses from skin and other periphery to the spinal cord and brain
The somatic sensory nerves carry information from the periphery into the CNS. Sensory neurons affect a range of things such as temperature, pain, touch and proprioception. Proprioception is the sense of determining the position and movement of musculoskeletal tissue.
Somatic sensory fibres are also associated with dermatomal patterns. A dermatome is an area of skin which is supplied by a single nerve.
Visceral sensory nerves are responsible for conducting messages from the organs with the focus on economy of the body. These impulses are associated primarily with chemoreception, mechanoreception and stretch reception.
Motor Nerves carry impulses from the brain or spinal cord to a muscle or gland.
Somatic motor fibres carry information away from the CNS to skeletal muscles creating movement.
Somatic motor neurons are associated with myotomes. Myotomes relate to movement of a muscle being supplied by a single nerve.
The visceral motor component is commonly referred to as the autonomic division of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which is subdivided into sympathetic and parasympathetic parts.
Any of the tissues discussed above can cause disruption and injury to the body if placed under considerable stress for a period of time.
The a-z of back pains
Below is an extensive list of issues and conditions that could be causing your back pain. Understanding the symptoms that you are experiencing and the location of injury can help you greatly.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis - Sometimes refer to as 'bamboo spine' ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis which affects the joints and ligaments of the spine, commonly in the lumbar region.
- Arthritis - Arthritis is a degenerative condition which occurs in people aged 40+. Degeneration of joints can cause pain, weakness and instability in the spine.
- Cauda Equina - Cauda Equina Syndrome occurs in the lumbar spine due to damage of the bundle of nerves at the end of the spinal cord become damaged. This is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and MUST be treated immediately, click here for more information.
- Compression Fracture - Typically occur no higher than T7 but can cause a great deal of pain as the body of a vertebrae is crushed by 15%-20%.
- Disc Injury - There are different stages of disc injuries that can occur, each of them producing a large amount of pain.
- Facet Joint Syndrome - Facet joint syndrome is a arthritis like condition that occurs due to a breakdown of structures. Cartilage inside the facet can become inflamed triggering pain signals through nearby nerves.
- Kyphosis - Kyphosis is a progressive problem which occurs due to poor posture, weakness and tightness and is becoming increasingly common with adults.
- Muscle Strains - Muscular strains are occurring much more often as many people are engaging in fitness programs without having appropriate knowledge of lifting techniques.
- Myelopathy - The gradual loss of nerve function, caused by various spinal injuries.
- Radiculopathy - Radiculopathy is a disease which affects the spinal nerve roots and spinal nerves.
- Sciatica - Sciatica is a neurological condition which is caused by an irritation of the sciatic nerve, click here for more information on how to manage and treat your symptoms.
- Scoliosis - Scoliosis refers to the 'S' shaped curvature which occurs within the spine. This condition develops from a young age and can cause a range of issues.
- Spinal Stenosis - Spinal Stenosis is a condition that typically affects older adults as the spinal canal narrows and begins to pinch nerves, causing back and leg pain.
- Spondylosis - A form of arthritis which causes degeneration of a vertebra and the structures surrounding.
- Spondyloisthesis - Occurs when there is a forward slip of a vertebra, this commonly occurs in the lumbar spine and is a condition on the rise.
- Transverse Process Fracture - Fractures of the transverse process can be caused in various ways, typically due to direct pressure or in some cases due to over pressure on muscles.
- Osteoporosis - A condition that causes brittle bones, making them much easier to fracture, most commonly occurring within the older generations.
Treating your back pain
Each individual may find a method of treatment which works well for a specific symptom of back pain, while the same treatment can have little to no affect on another, it is important to understand that when frantically googling your symptoms. For more specific treatments or management techniques that could be effective click the links to each of the conditions above and start the process of caring for your own wellness now.
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