What's Behind Your Back Pain

Back problems have many origins, some having to do with the spinal cord itself (rare), more often having to do with where the nerve roots exit the spine, and some having to do with structures further and further away. Back problems and back pain may be felt immediately around your spine itself, or it could show up elsewhere in the body - as shoulder pain, headache, tingling and numbness in the extremities (fingers and toes), or even constipation. All of our body functions are tied in to how our brain and spine works.

Common causes. Mechanical disorders of the spine are the most common causes of low back pain. Any back pain can be classified as mechanical if physical activity makes it worse and rest makes it better. Degenerative disc disease is the most common cause of mechanical related back pain. Degenerative disc disease is the breakdown, bulging, or tearing of the discs that provide a cushion and space between the vertebral bones of the spine. Other mechanical symptoms could include sprains and strains, tumors, or even arthritis. In this section of the website, we will reference and describe three causes of back pain and arthritis: mechanical causes, disease related causes, and other causes.

Mechanical Causes - Anatomical changes occur to all of our spines as we get older, though not all of us experience symptoms of these changes such as stiffness, partial loss of mobility, or pain. As we get older, the discs that cushion the moving vertebrae get smaller, are less able to maintain water and the volume of its gel-like interior. Eventually the height of all of our discs will diminish, to some extent, and loose some of their ability to cushion and absorb shock. All people (and you're not too special to avoid this), experience some degenerative changes to the intervertebral discs of the back. Some people experience these changes more than others, and have the condition known as degenerative disc disease. Those with degenerative disc disease may experience more symptoms such as back pain through too much physical exertion, bending, or lifting. Degenerative disc disease typically doesn't cause pain until you perform a strenuous activity that you're not in shape to do.

Degenerative disc disease is probably the most common mechanical cause of back pain, and it can be diagnosed quickly by the most unsophisticated medical imaging (the X-Ray). But there are many other mechanical causes of back pain. Coccydynia. Coccydynia mean pain in the area of your coccyx, or your tailbone. Usually, you will suffer pain and injury to your tailbone by some type of accident, such as if your feet slipped out from under you and you landed directly on your bottom (butt). I personally remember slipping on the pavement and my tailbone sustaining the entire force of impact during my fall. For about 30 seconds, I was completely unable to breath, as if I had the wind knocked out of me. For days afterwards, my breathing was labored and I it was hard to walk around or sit down. Eventually the labored breathing and pain radiating from my tailbone and pelvis went away on its own. Luckily, I was a kid when this happened.

Other mechanical causes of back pain include sprains, spasms, ruptured or herniated discs, poor posture, facet syndrome, and muscle tension.

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