Your Guide to Back Health and Back Injuries

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Many people throughout their lives will suffer from back pain, resulting from a variety of causes and injuries.

Understanding the medical terminology doctors use in diagnosing and treating the causes of back pain can be confusing. While its always your right to ask your doctor for clarification, some patients may not feel comfortable asking a busy physician to take more time to explain things in simpler terms.

This series of blogs, entitled Back Health, is designed for injured people seeking more information about common back injuries, including symptoms and treatments. And we’ve attempted to explain things in simple terms, so you won’t need a medical degree to understand what’s going on with your back.

Read on for the first installment in our Back Health Series. This one focuses on the anatomy of the spine.

Please remember, this information is for educational purposes only. If you are suffering from back pain, please consult a doctor. Do not try to treat yourself.

Accurately diagnosing the cause of back pain can be difficult because of the complex structure of your spine.

The spine is made up of five separate and distinct parts: cervical (the area from the neck to approximately the shoulder blades); thoracic (the upper back area where the ribs are attached); lumbar (the lower back area close to the hips); sacrum (the pelvis area); and coccyx (commonly called the tailbone).

When these five parts are healthy and functioning well, your spine is able to support your weight, provide flexibility for bending and twisting, and protect your spinal cord. When your spine has been injured though, you may find that the most common of movements such as bending down to pick up a box or twisting to reach a file, can lead to intense pain.

Back injuries are surprisingly common. According to Prevention magazine, you have a 50-50 chance of suffering a debilitating back injury.

When you have a back injury, the pain may be concentrated in your back or it may radiate to other limbs, and it can range from chronic throbbing pain to sharp shooting pain.

Most patients experience back pain in the neck, the upper back and the lower back — affecting the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. Depending on the type of injury or back disorder, some patients may experience more pain sitting down while others experience more pain standing.

There’s no single cause of back pain. Spinal injuries may be the result of a traumatic event, such as a car accident or a fall. Or they can be the result of a long-term cause, such as repetitive movements, heavy lifting or even normal “wear and tear.” You could even hurt your back doing normal household activities.

The pain in your back may be caused by disc or vertebrae injuries or damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons, the so-called soft tissues in your spine.

Coming next in Your Guide to Back Health and Back Injuries blog series: Understanding back sprains, soft-tissue injuries, bulging discs and herniated discs.

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