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What Your Back Pain Means

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

One of the most common reasons for a person to visit the doctor’s office is back pain. After all, that kind of discomfort is not only irritating, it can cause issues with movement and getting around. About six million cases are seen every year, and around 80 percent of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Add those statistics to the fact that those numbers are growing due to our dependency on electric devices, and it’s no wonder that millions of Americas are visiting chiropractors, physical therapists, and orthopedics.

“In your spine, there are 26 bones stacked together and connected by ligaments, muscles, and shock-absorbing discs,” SouthCoast Health Physical Therapist Chris Curry said. “Countless things can cause any of those components to be harmed and have people in desperate need to see a doctor.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing back pain, here is what the location might mean for your health.

Lower Back Pain

This is the most common area for people to experience back pain, as about two-thirds of adults will feel it at some point. It’s best described as discomfort in the area beneath your ribs and all the way down to your tailbone.

What’s the cause of lower back pain? There can be a wide list of reasons:

  • Bone Spurs and Stenosis: Bone growth that causes spurs to develop on the edge of the bone. Sometimes these spurs can compress nerves.
  • Thickened Ligaments: When the ligaments connecting the spine bones grow thicker than usual.
  • Degenerative or Bulging/Herniated Discs: While degenerative discs occur when the discs between the vertebrae thin and lose their cushioning, bulging or herniated discs occur when the soft center of a spinal disc gets misplaced. This can lead to compression of the nerve, causing back and leg pain.
  • Spinal Cysts: A fluid-filled sac that grows along the spine.
  • Muscle Spasms: Though these are usually harmless and temporary, this involuntary movement or contraction of muscle can cause pain.
  • Sciatica: When pressure is put directly onto the sciatic nerve, pain shoots down the entire leg and causes this condition.
  • Mechanical Low Back Pain: Very common cause of low back pain. It occurs when a lack of flexibility or having lessened core strength can cause the spine to move abnormally and generate pain.

Middle and Upper Back Pain

This type of pain is less likely than that of lower back pain but can still happen for many people. This is because the middle and upper back tends to be more stable, thus protecting it from injury. Here are the most common reasons why pain might occur:

  • Muscle Strain: This occurs when muscles in the area are strained, such as when heavy lifting incorrectly.
  • Myofascial Pain: If you’ve ever experienced knots in the middle of your back that hurt if pressure is applied, then this might be caused by myofascial pain. Fascia is the connective tissue in and between the muscles of the spine, so any time those muscles are harmed or used incorrectly pain will surface.
  • Pinched Nerve: Occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues.
  • Osteoarthritis: Also known as the most common form of arthritis, this happens when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time.
  • Gallbladder Issues: Gallstones can commonly cause pain between the shoulder blades or around the right shoulder.
  • Posture: Having kyphosis or a rounded upper back creates pain and sometimes shoulder dysfunction.

Common Reasons for All of the Above Locations of Back Pain

While some pain is specific to the area where they occur, there are also a handful of reasons that can trigger general back pain. Those are as followed:

  • Poor Posture: If you have a desk job or a bad habit of hunching over for long periods of time, then you might also experience general back pain. Luckily, the solution is just making a practice out of sitting up straighter and doing exercises that help stretch out your back.
  • Aging: Unfortunately, many people experience back pain as they age. It grows more frequent as people begin to get into their 30s and 40s, then the rate continues to rise as the age gets higher.
  • Herniated Spinal Disc: Herniated discs occur when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior.
  • Vertebral Fractures: Fractures that occur in the vertebrae of the spine.
  • Overweight: If you are overweight or out of shape, the strain of this extra weight can cause issues for your back.
  • Poor Physical Conditioning: Otherwise known as general weakness or lack of flexibility.

If you have any further questions or concerns about your spine health, reach out to SouthCoast Health’s trusted physicians by clicking here


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