Back pain affects nearly 80% of Americans and the most common form is Low Back Pain. Because you rely on your back for almost every move you make, it is vulnerable to injury. Back pain can even be disabling. It is one of the most common problems prompting a visit to your doctor and for missing work. In fact, it is the second highest cause of disability in persons under the age of 45.
Although people complain of back pain, it is not a diagnosis but rather a symptom of an underlying disorder. There are two types of back pain, acute and chronic. Acute back pain is pain with a new onset. It comes on suddenly, usually due to injury. This is the most common type of back pain. It is usually resolved in less than one month but no more than 6 weeks duration. Chronic pain is pain that can have a quick or slow onset, but it lingers for long periods of time. Although it may last three months or longer, some people experience a lifetime of chronic back pain. Chronic pain is the least common type of pain.
What Causes back pain?
To begin to understand the causes of back pain, we need to understand the spine. The back is made up of 33 vertebrae or bones. It is divided into 5 groups: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacrum and Coccyx. The cervical spine (upper back or neck) consists of 7 vertebrae. The thoracic(middle back) has 12, and the lumbar spine(low back) has 5 vertebrae. The sacrum consists of 5 fused vertebrae, and the coccyx(tail bone) has 4 vertebrae fused together.
The vertebrae are held together by ligaments and muscles with discs between the vertebrae. The discs are filled with a jellylike center, allowing them to act like a shock absorber. The vertebrae link together to provide stability and support. They protect the spinal cord and spinal nerves that run through the spinal canal.
Because the neurological system is complex, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of back pain. The causes of back pain are divided into categories: Mechanical, Injuries, Acquired disorders or diseases, Infections or tumors.
Mechanical causes: These are problems with how the spine works. For example, Spondylolistesis(deterioration of the disc one vertebrae to slip forward over another, causing the vertebrae to rub together, therefore causing pain). Other mechanical problems are fractures, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spinal degeneration and sciatica.
Injuries- This category includes common forms of back pain due to injury to the spine or the ligaments and muscles involved with the spine. Sprains, for example, result if a ligament that supports the spine is pulled or torn due to improper lifting or body mechanics, even twisting the wrong way, Fractures can occur from osteoarthritis which causes the bones to become brittle and weak. Sever injuries can result from an accident or fall.