Back pain is one of the top reasons for physician visits and lost time at work. Back pain can range from simply annoying to completely debilitating. It doesn't matter if you have been lifting weights your whole life or been a couch potato, back pain can find you. Simple everyday tasks can turn into excruciating injuries with just a simple crouch, bend or twist. Knowing what causes back pain and how to avoid it are important to reduce the chances of being laid up due to a back injury.
What is Back Pain? Back pain actually refers to a group of injuries or disorders that can cause pain in the back area. Back pain may occur anywhere along the back. It may be bone or muscle related pain.
The pain may be focused in one area of the back or may radiate to other areas. Pain in the back can take many forms and have many causes. Back pain is more than just pain in the back; it has underlying causes that must be addressed to reduce the pain. Failure to correct the underlying causes can lead to chronic back problems and continued back pain, unnecessary surgery and restricted range of motion. The back has a complex anatomy of bones and muscles. The base of the skeletal system is the spinal column. This is made up of 33 individual vertebrae grouped into specific areas of the spine. The upper portion (neck) is the cervical spine and consists of 7 vertebrae and 8 nerves. Below that is the thoracic section with 12 vertebrae, followed by the 5 vertebrae of the lumbar spine, 5 in the sacral region and finally, 4 in the coccygeal region. The vertebrae all fit together in a straight line when viewed from the front or back, with a natural curvature that is convex in the cervical area, concave in the thoracic, back to convex in the lumbar, and ending with a concave curve in the pelvic region (sacral and coccygeal.) The vertebrae are held together with strong fibrous ligaments.
In between the vertebrae are fluid filled discs that allow for limited movement and provide cushioning. The muscles of the back are connected to the spine by strong tendons. The upper back is covered by the trapezius muscle, the rhomboids (major and minor), and the teres major. The mid portion of the back is covered by the large latissimus dorsi muscle. The erector spinae group attaches to and supports the spinal column. These muscles all anchor on the spinal column. The upper and mid-back muscles all attach to the arm or shoulder, while the erector spinae group anchor at the spine and attach to the ribs and pelvis.
Treatment of Back Pain
Treatment of back pain can take on many forms depending on the type, and source, of the pain. As stated above, the correction of the underlying cause of the pain is the most important step in treatment. There are many traditional methods of treatment that have been used by many; however, these may not be the best choices.
Traditionally, back pain sufferers have gone to orthopedic surgeons to address the problem. These doctors often prescribe cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory medications to deal with the pain. The problem here is that it does not address the underlying cause, so it is a short term fix. Surgical interventions are often prescribed, also. These may help with the immediate issue causing pain, however the new scarring will cause additional pain and the original cause of the problem probably has not been fixed. So, the pain will return again when the same forces are applied to the area.
Physical therapy is another commonly sought option. The idea behind physical therapy for back pain is good; however, it does not always follow through. A physical therapist will work to reduce the pain symptoms, but a busy facility may seek to do only that. The underlying causes may be ignored in the quest for immediate pain relief. While the pain may go away for a short time, it will return once the underlying problem flares up again.
Chiropractic care is another popular option. This involves the manual manipulation of the bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles to realign the bones. Unfortunately, the same forces that pulled the bones out of alignment in the first place are still there and will continue to work on the bones again. Unless the muscle imbalances are addressed the problem will continue. A chiropractor that addresses digestive issues can often find the underlying system that is creating the pain. It is important to understand that the nerves in the low back go to the small and large intestine, so it could easily be the underlying source of the pain. Dietary improvements, i.e., food in pill form and drinking aloe vera gel/juice will provide a healing and rehabilitation of the digestive tract.
Massage is another good option. This will help address imbalances in flexibility, allowing the therapist to work on muscles that are tight and inflexible. They will also be able to break up scar tissue in injured muscles, allowing them a greater range of motion.
And finally, addressing the muscle imbalances through post-rehab fitness training will help reverse the conditions that caused the pain in the first place. Strengthening and stretching the muscles will allow them to support the spinal column without causing excess pressure. Flexibility is essential for a healthy back and this can be addressed with a good fitness program. If you have any additional questions please call Bellevue Chiropractic Center at (615) 662-0001