How The Spine May Produce Back Pain

The human spine works as a single moving unit, yet is a structure consisting of hundreds of moving parts pulling it in all directions. The main unit of the spine is the spinal cord itself, which is composed of 24 vertebrae (vertebral bones) as well as the fused segments of the sacrum and coccyx at its base. Muscles, joints, and other soft tissues of the back serve to unite the bones of the spine into one unit that moves together, to move the spine. Though the facet joints and discs of the spine serve to allow for some movement, it's main purpose is to house and protect the spinal cord. the spinal cord transverse through the vertebral arch of each vertebral bone, and the branches of the spinal cord exit the spine through the intervertebral foramina at the sides of the spine. When the vertebral bones, discs, facet joints, and ligaments of the spine are healthy and functioning properly, we are able to move without restriction, and we do not feel symptoms of back pain. most of us remain blissfully ignorant to how delicate the soft tissues of the spine are, and how many things can go wrong with it, until something goes wrong, and we become affected by a back problem. Once we have back pain, we will usually continue to seek new diagnoses and new treatments for it until something works, and we finally experience enough back pain relief to resume our lives.

How the Spine May Produce Back Pain
There are many different structures in the spine that may be negatively affected by degenerative changes to the spine. Some structures may deteriorate due to wear and tear and age related changes, and other structures may be strained or injured due to degenerative changes to other structures that previously supported them. An example of secondary damage to spinal structures would be the facet joints of the spine. In many instances, these facet joints, which stabilize the back of the spine and prevent excessive movements and rotation may be affected by degenerative discs changes that pull the spine down towards the front of the spine, while causing the posterior facet joints to take on added pressures. These added pressures that the facet joints are forced to take on can accelerate the destruction of the smooth cartilage of the facets in the facet joints.

When these structures are strained, sprained, torn, or become degenerated, the following back problems may occur:
  • The lowered height of the disc is itself a cause of pain. The fibrous wall of the annulus fibrosus - the outer wall of the intervertebral disc, is supplied with pain fibers sensitive to shrinkage and tears of the disc.
  • The large nerve roots that go to the arms and legs are irritated.
  • The erector spinae muscles (the large paired back muscles) atrophy, are weakened, or strained due to injury.
  • The smaller nerves that innervate the spine are injured or sense damage to the structures they supply.
  • The joints, ligaments, or bones are injured.
After we further discuss how the spine may produce back pain, we will suggest some of the most common treatments used to treat cervical, thoracic, and lumbar lower back pain. Some common treatments for back pain include pain medications, steroid injections, nerve blocks, physical therapy, work with a personal trainer, electrotherapy, and nerve destruction.