Although we do not talk enough about this, many people suffer from back pain. Back pain does not necessarily indicate an underlying condition. It can occur if you have excessive physical activity or bodybuilding, stay in a sitting or lying position for too long, have a poorly adjusted backpack, or sleep in an uncomfortable position. It can be defined as a physical discomfort occurring anywhere in the spine or in the back, ranging from mild to disabling. But how do I know if my back pain is serious? What is the best way to get rid of back pain?
I – What Is a Back Pain?
Back pain (commonly known as “back pain”) is a very common pain that can be located at different heights of the spine. Cervicalgia is used for neck pain, lumbar low back pain, and so on. Whatever the localization, these pains can have several origins: osteoarticular, muscular, or nervous.
Nearly 80% of us have suffered, suffer, or suffer from back pain at some point in our lives. Back pain is even called “evil of the century”, as it is difficult to escape, and unfortunately sometimes to get rid of it.
II – What Did You Know About the Anatomy of the Back?
The spine consists of 24 vertebrae (7 cervical, 12 dorsal or thoracic, 5 lumbar), to which are added “welded” vertebrae such as the sacrum and coccyx. Between the mobile vertebrae, the intervertebral disks (consisting of a ring of fibrous cartilage and a gelatinous nucleus) allow the movements of the column and play the role of the shock absorber.
The vertebrae present a “hole” in their center. Inside this canal (spinal canal) is the spinal cord. It is divided into different nerve roots, which emerge at the back of each vertebra to innervate a specific part of our body.
All around our spine, strong ligaments, and muscles strengthen this frame.
III – Origins of Back Pain – How Do I Know If My Back Pain Is Serious?
Small, adults, old, we suffer from back pain. For some irregularly; for others regularly. We are therefore able to ask ourselves what is the cause of this harm that can last for a lifetime or just for a time. And how do I know if my back pain is serious?
1. Backache of Osteoarticular Origin
*** The Wear of the Joints
In our daily movements, vertebral joints are subject to strong constraints. This is especially the case in the lumbar vertebrae, located at the bottom of the column and at the crossroads of many forces (pressure, weight, shear, etc.). It is especially the posterior (rear) joints that are most likely to suffer from our bad positions, the carrying of loads, etc. The cervical vertebrae are subject to lesser forces, but they are extremely mobile. At this level of the column, it is, therefore, the repeated and unsuitable movements that can damage the joints in the long term.
This chronic wear can lead to progressive destruction of the cartilages located between each joint and create osteoarthritis (rheumatic degenerative damage), causing pain. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of back pain, especially after 40 years. The pains caused are rather muted and chronic, accentuated at night and during periods of prolonged immobility. They cause stiffness in the joints, particularly noticeable in the morning when waking up.
By promoting the formation of small bone growths (called “parrot beaks”), osteoarthritis can also be responsible for nerve pinches. The pain is then acute, felt like a “discharge”. In advanced stages, osteoarthritis can also be responsible for narrowing of the spinal canal, also known as lumbar stenosis. Pain is not the main symptom of this narrowing, which is more manifested by gait disorders and numb limbs. But if pain appears, it is often similar to sciatica pain (back of the thigh) or cruralgia (before the thigh).
*** Diseases That Affect the Joints
Some rheumatic diseases can affect the spine. This is the case of ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease that is manifested by outbreaks of arthritis and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments. The lower spine and the sacroiliac joint are the preferred locations for this disease, which affects adolescents and young adults more frequently. It is characterized by chronic lower back pain and morning stiffness of the spine, which improves with movement.
Another bone disease that can cause pain in the spine: osteoporosis. This condition, characterized by a decrease in bone density, can affect the entire skeleton. Spinal involvement affects women more than men, especially after menopause and falling estrogen levels. Osteoporosis can also be secondary to prolonged corticosteroids, malnutrition (eg anorexia nervosa), or intense sports. In the spine, osteoporosis often remains asymptomatic, the pain being caused more by the possible fractures in the advanced stage of the disease.
*** The Deformations of the Column
Several attacks can cause deformations of the spine and cause pain.
This is the case of spondylolisthesis: this condition corresponds to a slippage of the 4th lumbar vertebra on the 5th, most often caused by an accident or repeated trauma. This movement often remains asymptomatic, but it can cause pain, localized in the lower back and sometimes radiating to the thighs. They can appear day and night and are accentuated by movement.
Other deviations from the spine may be painful, the most common being scoliosis. This deformation occurs during growth, with no identifiable cause in the majority of cases. The vertebral column, which presents a natural curvature in the physiological state, can then deform in several directions, the most common being lateral deformation (leaning to the side). If scoliosis becomes painful, these pains are rheumatic. Kyphosis is a special form of scoliosis. This attack corresponds to an exaggeration of the natural curvature of the column at the level of the dorsal vertebrae, causing a “curved back” impression. The cervical and lumbar parts adapting their own curvature to compensate for this malformation, multiple pains can appear at different levels of the spine.
Patients with spina bifida also face chronic back pain. This condition is related to a lack of closure of the neural tube during embryonic development, which then becomes the spinal canal containing the spinal cord. Such a diagnosis is usually made from birth. Spina bifida occulta (closed) are asymptomatic. In the case of spina bifida open, there is a fistula in the back of the spinal canal in which nerve roots can lodge. These “tumors” called meningoceles or myelomeningoceles cause sensory and motor disorders. They are usually accompanied by chronic pain.
2. Backache of Neuralgic OriginHow Do I Know If My Back Pain Is Serious?
The pains of nervous origin correspond to “pinches” or “compressions”. These pains are the sign of conflict in the nerve root or a very innervated ligament (such as the posterior ligament of the spine), caused by a herniated disc or osteoarthritic outgrowth.
A herniated disc corresponds to the projection of a part of the nucleus of an intervertebral disc. It occurs when the disc is worn, cracked, or due to severe shock or abrupt movement. The pain is persistent, in the form of a horizontal “bar” on both sides of the hernia. When the hernia is posterior, it can be in contact with the spinal nerve. It is then the electric discharge by irritation and compression of the nerve, and the pain can spread all along this nerve. Depending on the vertebral floor of the nerve root, it may be a sciatic (sciatic nerve that innervates the posterior part of the thigh and leg) or a cruralgia (the crural nerve that innervates the anterior part of the thigh).
The nerve pinches at the osteoarthritic joints are described in the same way: during a movement, a sharp and lightning pain appears at the level of the nervous conflict and can radiate, as in the case of a hernia, towards the zone d concerned innervation.
3. Backache of Muscular Origin
This is the infamous lumbago or “kidney tower”. It occurs suddenly in the lumbar region, after a false movement, and is accompanied by a sensation of “rupture”, “tearing” or “breakdown”. The pain is sudden, intense, and paralyzing. Often, there is no particular damage to the joints or discs.
There is a very significant inflammation of the muscles and ligaments around the spine. The pain is accentuated by coughing, sneezing, defecation. They are relieved when lying down, which often causes people suffering from lumbago to remain motionless. It is however recommended to move as much as possible, the movement is the best treatment against lumbago.
Back pain can be acute or chronic when it persists beyond 3 months. To relieve him, one must, of course, know the exact cause. Your doctor will do a thorough examination and a full examination before prescribing, if necessary, additional tests to confirm your diagnosis. He can then propose, if necessary, a suitable treatment.
Dorsalgia is often associated with poor postures, you will have to correct your daily habits: adopt the right positions in everyday life, exercise adapted to strengthen the back and abdominals, etc. In many cases, these preventive measures are sufficient to relieve back pain and prevent it from reappearing.