Back Problems and Injuries

Back Pain

Back pain can cause problems anywhere from the neck to the tailbone (coccyx). The back includes:

  • The bones and joints of the spine (vertebrae).
  • The discs. that separate the vertebrae and absorb shock as you move.
  • The muscles and ligaments, that hold the spine together.

Spine Anatomy
Back injuries are the most common cause of back pain. Back injuries frequently occur when you use your back muscles in activities, such as lifting a heavy object. Minor injuries also may occur from tripping, falling, or excessive twisting of the spine. Severe back injuries may result from car accidents or a high-energy fall onto the buttocks.

Although back pain is often caused by an injury to one or more of the structures of the back, it may have another cause. Some people are more likely to develop back pain than others. Things that increase your risk for back pain and injury include getting older, having a family history of back pain, sitting for long periods, lifting or pulling heavy objects, and having a degenerative disease such as osteoporosis.

Slumping or slouching may cause low back pain. After the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse. “Good posture” generally means your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. If this posture causes pain, you may have another condition such as a problem with a disc or bones in your back.

Lower back pain may occur in children and teenagers.

Sudden (acute) Back Injuries

Pain from a back injury may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Pain from an acute injury usually does not last longer than 6 weeks. Acute injuries include:

Herniated Disc

  • An injury to the ligaments or muscles in the back, such as a sprain or a strain.
  • A fracture or dislocation of the spine. This can cause a spinal cord injury that may lead to permanent paralysis. It is important to immobilize and transport the injured person correctly to reduce the risk of permanent paralysis.
  • A torn or ruptured disc. If the tear is large enough, the jellylike material inside the disc may leak out (herniate) and press against a nerve (herniated disc).
  • An injury that causes the compression of nerves in the lower back (cauda equina syndrome).

Overuse Back Injuries

You may not remember a specific injury, especially if your symptoms began gradually or during everyday activities. These injuries occur most often from improper movement or posture while lifting, standing, walking, or sitting, or even while sleeping. Symptoms can include pain, muscle spasms, and stiffness.

Conditions that may cause back problems

Back pain or problems may not be related to an injury.

  • Conditions that weaken the spine, such as ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, or Paget’s disease, can cause back pain. These conditions are most common in older adults. In rare cases, tumors or infections can develop in or around the spine.
  • Some medical conditions can cause pain to spread to the back from other parts of the body (referred pain).
  • Spinal deformities such as scoliosis, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis can cause back pain.
  • Chronic pain syndrome caused by a previous injury or degenerative disease with aging can cause back pain.

Treatment

Most back pain will get better and go away by itself. Avoid heavy lifting and activities that seem to make your back problems worse.

Other treatments for a back problem or injury may include

  • Physical therapy
  • Medicines
  • Epidural Injection
  • Surgery

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