Your spine is a complex, vital structure made up of vertebrae (bones), tendons, ligaments, muscles and cushiony discs. When there is an issue with any of these components, back pain may be the result.
Back pain can be categorized as acute or chronic and can range from a mild annoyance to crippling hindrance. Acute back pain is pain that appears with sudden intensity and lasts less than three to six months. In comparison, chronic back pain is generally classified as aching and lasts over three to six months.
When it comes to back pain, here are the top 12 causes:
- Age: Individuals over the age of 40 have an increased risk of back pain. This may be due to the natural degeneration of the spine over the course of time or other factors, such as disease or injury.
- Being overweight: The spine is responsible for bearing the weight of the body in order to keep it upright. Excessive weight can place a great burden on the spine, resulting in conditions, such as spondylolisthesis. With spondylolisthesis, one of the vertebrae slides forward over the vertebra beneath it.
- Pregnancy: As with obesity, pregnancy can cause back pain due to extra weight in the front of the body. In other cases, the fetus may shift and press on nerves, such as the sciatic nerve, causing back pain as well.
- Heredity: Some individuals may possess a predisposition to conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis (an arthritic condition that can affect the spine) or disc herniation (a condition affecting the spinal discs between the vertebrae).
- Occupation: A physical job that demands repetitive heavy lifting, twisting, pulling or pushing can put a strain on some or all of the parts of the back. This prolonged strain may cause back pain.
- Other diseases: In addition to arthritic conditions, spinal tumors (both benign and malignant) may sometimes form in the spine and press on the nerves in the spinal canal or associated nerve roots (depending on their location).
- Poor physical fitness: When individuals don’t exercise or maintain their physique, the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the back aren’t as tone, making them prone to injury or pain.
- Ruptures: Discs in-between the vertebrae that make up the spinal column are known as spinal discs. They act as cushions and create stability and flexibility in the spine. When these discs rupture, the soft interior leaks through a crack in the tough outer exterior and puts pressure on the nerves in the spinal column or nearby nerve roots.
- Smoking: Smoking reduces the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the spine by constricting the vascular system. It has also been shown to potentially increase the brain activity that decreases the resilience to chronic back pain. And it’s just plain bad for you.
- Spasms: Spasms are spontaneous, abnormal contractions of the muscles. When the muscles in the back spasm close to the spinal cord or nerve roots, it may result in back pain.
- Tense muscles: When stressed, the body releases hormones that increase the perception of pain and cause the muscles to tense. If the muscles tense too much, painful spasms may be induced.
- Strains and sprains: A strain in an injury to one of the muscles or tendons of the back. A tendon is a thick band of fibrous tissue that connects the muscles to the bones.
Sprains occur when a ligament is stretched or torn. Ligaments are also fibrous bands of tissue but connect two or more bones to a joint to prevent excessive movement.
Consult a Spinal Surgeon
With so many potential and possible causes, a physician consultation is strongly recommended for properly diagnosing the source of back pain. At New Jersey Neck & Back Institute (NJNBI), back surgeon Doctor LaRocca is a board certified and fellowship trained spine surgeon with years of experience in all aspects of the spine.
Dr. LaRocca and his professional staff offer comprehensive services that include diagnosis and customized treatment plans. With an emphasis on compassion and superior care, Dr. LaRocca and his team improve quality of life for patients living with back pain and other spine conditions.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. LaRocca, contact NJNBI today or fill out the contact form.