Back pain has become one of the most common chronic injuries in America. Whether your back hurts because you are aging or you've sustained an injury, it's important to understand how to treat your back injuries and back pain. For some individuals, back pain is a result of a congenital defect; for others, it's caused by a recent event. Regardless of how you got your back injury, you shouldn't have to suffer; effective treatment is an absolute must.
The spine is comprised of 33 bones, called vertebrae. These bones are connected to one another with ligaments and muscles. Your spine not only gives your body stability, but allows you to bend, twist, and simply stand upright. Inside your spine, the spinal cord connects all of your nerves, allowing your body to communicate with your brain and vice versa. Because your spine is not only vital to all types of motions but also the gateway for your brain and body to communicate with each other, keeping it healthy and well-functioning is crucial.
Additionally, the spine is divided into five different sections, starting at your neck and going all the way to your tailbone; cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccyx. In order to be pain-free, your spine must work exactly how it was meant to. But sometimes, that's not the case. Some of us are simply born with severe spinal issues, while others may find out they have congenital defects connected to their spine later in life. Regardless, it's important to understand that the spine is a complex part of your body that needs to be taken care of.
Among athletes, some of the most common back injuries are simply ligament sprains or back muscle strains. These injuries aren't life threatening, but can be very uncomfortable and painful nevertheless. So when you've sustained an injury, whether it stems from playing a sport or being in an accident, you should make sure to take care of yourself and get checked out by a doctor. If you have sustained a serious injury to your back, you need a medical professional to rule out any potential damage to your vertebrae.
Low Back Pain
Most people have heard of the lumbar area, because those are the vertebrae most commonly injured in the lower back. Regardless of where in your back you get injured, you will be in pain and discomfort and are probably looking for relief. In America, more than 31 million people are estimated to suffer from lower back pain at any given time. In fact, low back pain is one of the most common reasons why people miss work, while simultaneously being the second most common reason to see a doctor.
Unfortunately injuring your lower back is also deceptively easy. Whether you bend over wrong to pick something up, or simply put undue stress on your back due to your age and weight, it can easily lead to lower back pain. Especially if your job requires lifting and bending, you can suffer from low back pain simply due to the nature of your job. Therefore it's important to take care of your back in order to keep yourself moving easily and without pain.
Herniated and Degenerative Disc Disease
When a disc gets herniated, the soft inner gel of the disc begins to leak into the spinal canal. This new intrusion on the spinal canal, in the spinal column, adds pressure to the nerves, which can result in significant pain. Where your disc is herniated in your body can affect different areas; cervical discs will cause arm pain, while lumbar discs lead to leg pain.
Additionally, you could suffer from pain in your sciatica, a large nerve that runs down your buttocks and leg. Degenerative disc disease isn't actually a disease, but references the breakdown of the spine -- which can also include herniated discs. This can occur simply because of Osteoporosis, and often serves as somewhat of a catch-all for problems with your spine. Symptoms generally include numbness, tingling, and weakness, and occur most commonly in the cervical or lumbar areas of your spine.
Spinal Stenois is another common problem with your spine. It references the narrowing of the spaces in your spine; when it occurs, it puts pressure on your spinal cord along with your nerves. Spinal Stenosis is most commonly found in the lumbar region of the spine, but can also exist in the cervical area.
This type of back injury is especially common among the older population. As you age, the integrity of your spine begins to break down, caused by years of wear and tear on your body. Symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling, along with loss of bladder and bowel control.
Should you experience these symptoms, be sure to get yourself checked by a doctor: in severe cases, cervical stenosis can cause serious damage to your spinal cord that will result in the loss of mobility. Less severe cases, however, are very common among older people, so getting a diagnosis of stenosis shouldn't scare you by itself.
Acute Pain versus Chronic Pain
If you've injured your back by pulling a muscle, then your pain is considered acute. Your back will only hurt temporarily, before resolving itself and getting better. Still, an acute muscular back injury still requires you to take care of your back in order to prevent the possibility of re-injuring it. On the other hand, if you suffer from chronic pain, you only have a few options to get relief.
Depending on the severity of your injury, surgery may be your only option to make a recovery. Spinal fusions and decompression surgeries are commonly used methods to provide pain relief for individuals suffering from severe back pain.
If you or your doctor decides that this route is best for your injury, it's very important to educate yourself on how to properly move your body, how to bend, and to make sure you regain a strong core. Even though certain parts of your body may be injured, your body is a unified machine that works together at all times. Strengthening your core muscles enables you to provide more stability for your spine, making your body stronger as a whole.
Regardless of what is causing you back pain, you should look into different ways to get relief. In some of the most serious circumstances, as stated above, your only option may be surgery. However, alternatives like physical therapy, exercise, medications, and various methods of support can help to manage your back pain as well. Pain medicine is only a temporary fix, and simply helps to disconnect the nerve signals being sent to your brain - fixing the symptoms instead of the underlying problem.
Regardless of the degree of back pain you're experiencing, a great way to help is through support. Back braces can help to provide much-needed additional support for your back. Especially if you are working and your job involves a great deal of bending over and heavy lifting, a back brace will help to keep your back strong and in the correct posture throughout the day.
If you're an athlete who is either recovering from a back injury or simply wants to help prevent the next one one, consider wearing a compression shirt. It offers padding and support that allows you to sustain hits without your body enduring the full impact.
Your back and spine are crucial to how you live your life everyday. By taking care of your injuries and working to prevent future ones, you are doing yourself a huge favor. To learn more about what you need to help protect your back, please contact us.