Patients come in to the office all the time and say, "My back hurts, Doc...but I didn't even do anything!" The truth is, there are many different underlying conditions that can cause back pain. Understanding the cause of your back pain is the key to proper treatment. In this article, I'll briefly describe the most common causes of back pain. Don’t try to make your own diagnosis. As a chiropractor, I deal with back pain complaints on a daily basis. I know what to look for and what questions to ask you to determine the real cause of your pain.
1. Muscle strains and muscle spasms are the most common cause of low back pain. We may or may not remember the initial event that triggered the muscle spasms, but they can be incredibly painful! It may even feel like nerve pain when the muscles tighten and twitch around a key nerve like the sciatic nerve.
2. A ruptured intervertebral disc, also called a herniated disc, is another common cause of back pain. The terms ruptured, herniated, slipped and bulging disc don’t really have precise definitions to distinguish one from another and are often used somewhat interchangeably to describe protruding disc material. It is important to note that a large percent of the population is walking around with bulging discs that cause no symptoms, so not every herniated disc warrants treatment or intervention.
3. Spinal stenosis causes a lot of back pain in the elderly. As we age, the spinal canal can become constricted from arthritis and other conditions. If the spinal canal becomes too narrow, back pain can be the result.
4. Arthritis most commonly affects joints such as the knees, hips and fingers. However, arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the small joints of the spine. Arthritis of the spine can cause back pain with movement, and you may feel stiff or sore when you first get up in the morning.
5. Spondylolisthesis causes back pain because adjacent vertebra become unstable and begin to "slip." The most common cause of spondylolisthesis is degeneration. This can lead to instability in the spine, allowing the vertebra to slip forward and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
As stated earlier, backaches are hard to self-diagnose. The causes listed above are just a few of more common possibilities. If you suffer from acute or chronic backaches, consult a qualified chiropractor for a complete exam.