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Do you suffer from back pain?
If you suffer from back pain, you aren’t alone. Between 75 and 85% of all people will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime. In fact, back pain is the second most frequently reported reason for visiting a doctor after the common cold.
What’s causing my back pain? It’s a common question, and a visit to your doctor is an important first step to get an answer. Any patient suffering from back pain or radiating leg pain should be examined by a doctor. The history of the pain and any activities that may have triggered your symptoms are important factors in diagnosis and treatment.
The spinal column is one of the most vital parts of the human body, supporting our trunks and making all of our movements possible. When the spine is injured and its function is impaired the consequences can be painful and even disabling. According to estimates, 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. A small number of patients will develop chronic or degenerative spinal disorders that can be disabling.
Men and women are equally affected by lower back pain, and most back pain occurs between the ages of 25 and 60. However, no age is completely immune. Approximately 12% to 26% of children and adolescents suffer from low back pain. Fortunately most low back pain is acute, and will resolve itself in three days to six weeks with or without treatment. If pain and symptoms persist for longer than 3 months to a year, the condition is considered chronic.
Humans are born with 33 separate vertebrae. By adulthood, most have only 24, due to the fusion of the vertebrae in certain parts of the spine during normal development. The lumbar spine consists of 5 vertebrae called L1 through -L5. Below the lumbar spine, nine vertebrae at the base of the spine grow together. Five form the triangular bone called the sacrum. The two dimples in most everyone’s back (historically known as the “dimples of Venus”) are where the sacrum joins the hipbones, called the sacroiliac joint. The lowest four vertebrae form the tailbone or coccyx.
The anatomy of the spinal column is extremely well designed to serve many functions. All of the elements of the spinal column and vertebrae serve the purpose of protecting the spinal cord, which provides communication to the brain, mobility and sensation in the body through the complex interaction of bones, ligaments and muscle structures of the back and the nerves that surround it. The back is also the powerhouse for the entire body, supporting our trunks and making all of the movements of our head, arms, and legs possible.
Below are some common spinal conditions:
Spinal Stenosis is a general term referring to the narrowing of spaces in the vertebral column. Anatomically, individual vertebras interconnect in several places, making canals and holes through which nerves and the spinal cord pass. In spinal stenosis, pressure is put on the nervous tissue that traverses these openings. Because the nature of nervous tissue is to provide sensation, this pressure causes pain.
Many patients with back pain, leg pain, or weakness of the lower extremity muscles are diagnosed with a herniated disc, or rupture of the intervertebral disc of the spine. When this occurs, the cushion that sits between the spinal vertebra is pushed outside its normal position. A herniated disc would not be a problem so often if it weren’t for the spinal nerves that are very close to the edge of the intervertebral disc.
Many of the problems in the spine are caused because of the process of degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Everything you do during the day – once you stand upright – begins to test the spine’s ability to support your body weight. Over time, these repeated daily stresses and minor injuries can add up and begin to affect the discs in your spine. Minor injuries to the disc may occur and not cause pain at the time of the injury.
Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
The most common X-ray identified cause of low back pain in adolescent athletes is a stress fracture in one of the bones (vertebrae) that make up the spinal column. Technically, this condition is called spondylolysis (spon-dee-low-lye-sis). It usually affects the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back, and much less commonly, the fourth lumbar vertebra.
What is Facet Arthropathy? Simply put, facet arthropathy is degenerative arthritis affecting the facet joints in the spine. In the area of the spine where there are facet joints, arthritis pain can develop.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is an uncommon, chronic condition that usually affects your arm or leg. Rarely, the disease can affect other parts of your body. You may experience intense burning or aching pain along with swelling, skin discoloration, altered temperature, abnormal sweating and hypersensitivity in the affected area.
Spondylosis (spinal osteoarthritis) is a degenerative disorder that may cause loss of normal spinal structure and function. Although aging is the primary cause, the location and rate of degeneration is individual. The degenerative process of spondylosis may impact the cervical, thoracic, and/or lumbar regions of the spine affecting the intervertebral discs and facet joints.