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Causes of Back and Neck Pain

Back and neck pain is not necessarily something you have to live with. You may be able to do something about it. If your pain is interfering with your daily activities, such as getting in and out of bed, taking a shower or tying your shoelaces, this may be a sign it is time to seek help. Only your doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment options.

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Back Pain

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is pain that occurs in the lumbar spine. This type of pain can be broadly divided into two categories: mechanical pain, and compressive pain.

Mechanical Pain

Mechanical pain is often called back strain because it is linked with the movement, or "the mechanics" of the spine. This type of pain occurs when injury to the spine's discs, facet joints, ligaments, or muscles results in inflammation. It is called mechanical pain because it relates to the mechanics of your spine. The more you use your back, the more it hurts.

Compressive Pain

Compressive pain is a result of pressure or irritation on the spinal cord, nerves that leave the spine. For example, if an intervertebral disc herniates (usually called a ruptured disc) and pushes into the spinal canal, it can cause problems with the nerve. Usually this pressure or irritation causes pain, numbness, and muscle weakness where the nerve travels.

Each part of the spine can cause pain. It can be helpful to understand which part of the spine is causing your back pain and whether the pain is from a compressive or mechanical problem.

Low Back Pain in Athletes

Athletes are at greater risk of sustaining a lumber spine injury due to physical activity. Whether the sport is skiing, basketball, football, gymnastics, soccer, running, golf, or tennis- the spine undergoes a lot of stress, absorption of pressure, twisting, turning, and even bodily impact. This strenuous activity puts stress on the back that can cause injury to even the finest and most fit athletes.

Even though low back pain can sometimes be treated without major disruption to a person's life, athletes are often reluctant to seek medical help. Many of them deny or minimize complaints in order to avoid consequences, such as: having to decrease activity in order to recover, losing a position or being removed from a team, missing a competition, or letting the team down. Some athletes simply do not want to bother seeing a doctor for pain; they hope it will recover on its own.

Causes of Low Back Pain

Low back pain can be caused by a number of spinal conditions.
Common conditions that cause low back pain are:

  • Arthritis
  • Facet Joints Syndrome
  • Pinched Nerve (Radiculopathy)
  • Sciatica
  • Stenosis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Bulging Disc
  • Herniated Disc
  • Segmental Instability

Symptoms of Low Back Pain

The symptoms of low back pain vary depending on the cause of the pain, and include:

  • Muscle spasms, cramping and stiffness

  • Leg pain, tingling, numbness or weakness
  • Pain and stiffness that gets worse over time and lasts longer than 3 to 6 months

Neck Pain

Causes of Neck Pain

Over the course of your lifetime, your neck is subjected to repeated stress and minor injury. These injuries may not cause pain at the time of injury. However, repeated injuries add up, and can eventually result in degeneration of the cervical spine causing neck pain.

For chronic neck pain, there may not be a quick fix or a complete cure. You will need to work with your healthcare team to try to improve the problem causing the pain and to slow down the degenerative process. Your doctor's role in the treatment of neck pain is to find the main causes that need treatment right away. He or she will also try to keep your neck pain from becoming a chronic condition by teaching you how to slow down the degenerative process and prevent further injury.

Neck pain can occur when the intervertebral disc goes through the normal wear and tear of aging. However, many of the problems that cause neck pain are from abnormal wear and tear. This abnormal wear and tear often results from small injuries that may not cause pain at the time the injuries actually occur. Over time, these injuries add up and the abnormal wear and tear can weekend the connective tissue that makes up the disc. Once the connective tissue is weak, sudden stress, such as a whiplash type movement, may injure the disc more easily.

Possible Causes

The following conditions are common possible causes of neck pain:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Muscle Strain
  • Arthritis
  • Pinched Nerve (Radiculopathy)
  • Herniated Disc
  • Bone Spurs
  • Stenosis
  • Myelopathy

Symptoms of Neck Pain

The most common symptoms of neck pain include:

  • Pain in your neck
  • Headaches
  • Pain in your shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Reduced range of motion in your neck
  • Numbness, weakness, and slower reflexes in your arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Problems walking, including a "spastic gait"
  • Muscle weakness in your legs

References

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IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only a spine surgeon can tell if spine treatment is right for you.

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