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What Causes Back and Neck Pain?

By Dr. George Bobbitt

Here are some of the causes of back and neck pain:

Basic anatomy:

The human spine is made of 24 spinal bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae protect our spinal cord and help us to walk upright. The spinal cord extends downward from the brain and travels through the spine bones. At each bone level of the spine, spinal nerves branch off the spinal cord on the right and left sides of the spine. These nerves carry messages to and from every cell, tissue, muscle, organ and system of the body. Between each vertebrae or spine bone there are discs that act as shock absorbers. The disc are made of tough, outer fibers called the annulus and a gel-like center called the nucleus.

Disc Tears:

The discs are constantly exposed to compression, torque, twisting and injury. Tiny tears occur in the outer annular fibers of the disc. These tears occur with everyday activities or with trauma. As these tears develop, the disc starts to lose its fluid content.

Disc Bulge:

As the disc starts to tear, the gel-like nucleus begins to seep into the outer fibers of the disc. This is what is called a disc bulge. The gel-like nucleus is still contained, but the bulge can cause neck or lower back pain and pressure on the spinal nerves. This pressure on the nerves can lead to arm pain, numbness, tingling or weakness and sciatica which is leg pain, numbness, tingling or weakness.

Disc Herniation:

In other cases, the gel-like nucleus substance does seep into the outer fibers and penetrates the outer fibers of the disc. This herniation can cause significant neck or lower back pain and/or leg symptoms.

Degenerative Disc Disease(DDD)

DDD occurs over time and is related to all the falls, slips, trips, stumbles and accidents that happen in our younger years than to age. Additional traumas on top of previous accidents accelerate the degenerative process. DDD slowly progresses as the disc loses its fluid content. As the disc loses its height, the vertebrae sit closer together, causing excessive pressure on the nerves and surrounding tissues. This results in a dull, constant aching in the neck or lower back. DDD will not improve on its own and responds extremely well to spinal decompression, especially when the disease is treated in its early stages.

Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is formed by a network of nerves that exits the spine and pelvis. These nerves join together and travel down each leg from the buttocks to the leg, foot and toes. Sciatica is pain, numbness, tingling in the buttocks and/or leg caused by compression of the nerves as they exit the spine. Nerve compression can be caused from improper aligned vertebrae and pelvic joints, bone spurs, thickening of ligaments, scar tissue formation following surgery and disc conditions such as bulges, herniations and degeneration.

Cervical radiculopathy

There is a network of nerves that exit through each vertebra in the neck similar to those that travel down the legs from the lower back. These nerves travel down into the shoulder, arms, hands and fingers. Compression of these nerves can be a result of neck vertebrae being out of alignment, bone spurs, thickening of the ligaments, scar tissue from past surgery or trauma and disc injuries such as disc bulges, herniations and degeneration. This compression may lead to arm pain, numbness, tingling or weakness.

The above list includes some of the more common complicated reasons for neck and back pain. If you are suffering from any of the above and would like to know what can be done to help decrease pain and allow for recovery, please call our office at 817-453-3999. We specialize in helping those suffering from these ailments, and we welcome the opportunity to help you feel better without having to go through surgery or long term pain management regimens.

We invite you to call us to learn how you can feel better and live a pain-free, happier, more productive life. Call (817) 453-3999.