Bone & Joint Care

Back Pain

Managing & treating pain

Your back has three natural curves, forming an S shape. The cervical curve is made up of the first seven bones, or vertebrae, in your neck and back. The middle of your back is called the thoracic curve, while the lower back is the lumbosacral curve. Below the lumbar vertebrae are five more vertebrae which are fused together called the sacrum. The coccyx is the very bottom structure of the bony part of your spine. It is made of three to five small vertebrae attached to the bottom of your sacrum; the end of your coccyx is sometimes called your tailbone. image of spine

Ligaments are strong bands of fibrous tissue that knit your spine together. These ligaments contain pain fibers and connect the functional units of your spine. They help control the motion of your spine while providing flexibility. The sacroiliac joints attach the sacrum to the iliac, or hip bones. The hip bones are also attached to the sacrum by a number of ligaments on either side.

Pain in any of these areas of the back has physical, mental, and emotional factors. The wide variety of potential causes for back pain can present this pain and discomfort in several different ways, all of which affect your quality of life by limiting your ability or taking away the pleasure when pain accompanies the things you enjoy doing.

Some common causes of back pain are:

  • Back sprain and muscle spasms
  • Mental stress
  • Poor posture
  • Arthritis
  • Disc protrusion

A general back problem or spinal condition can include many different symptoms: Throbbing, aching, shooting, stabbing, dull, or sharp pain; pain down one or both legs with very little pain in the lower back; numbness or weakness in the legs; pain down in the lower back and legs in certain positions such as standing or walking; sleep problems, decreased energy, depression and anxiety; or pain caused or worsened by stress and emotional issues.

Treating back pain

In general, the goal of back pain treatment is simple: To improve the pain symptoms, prevent further injury, and get you back to your routine life and the activities you enjoy. While specific circumstances will dictate treatment, we generally recommend that those experiencing back pain modify their activity for a given period of time. We may also recommend medication to decrease pain and inflammation. However, complete inactivity such as bed rest is not advised.

Once the pain is eased, your physician may recommend some form of rehabilitative exercise program with the goal of increasing your muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and aerobic fitness to improve your spinal health and limit future episodes of back pain.

There are also surgical methods of treating back pain. Spine surgeries – such as spinal fusion – may be recommended for extreme cases of severe back pain that cannot be managed with other treatment methods.