The causes of back pain are nearly as numerous as words used to describe the symptoms. Back pain is a major reason many people seek medical and chiropractic attention. Considering that almost 80% of the adult population will encounter some form of back pain, it could be said that back pain is a universal problem and can affect anyone.
Typically back pain originates in the neck (cervical), mid back (thoracic), low back (lumbar), or a combination. Depending on the source of the pain, certain types of pain may be indicative of disease or a particular disorder.
Pain may be described as sudden, sharp, persistent, or dull. Symptoms may be localized to a specific area of the back (e.g. neck) or may radiate into the shoulders, arms, low back, buttocks, legs, and even the feet. Sometimes pain is accompanied by neurologic symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness.
Back pain is either acute or chronic. Acute back pain may begin suddenly with severe back pain usually lasting a short period of time. Chronic back pain is persistent long-term pain, sometimes lasting throughout life. Even chronic pain may present episodes of acute pain.
Many of the pain sensing nerves of the spine are in the facet joints, the two interlocking “fingers” at the back of each spinal bone. The normally smooth surfaces on which these joints glide, can become rough, irritated and inflamed. Surgical treatment often involves removing these facet joints, exposing the spinal cord.
Another cause of severe back pain can be a bulging disc putting pressure on the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root. The result is often numbness, tingling or pain down the leg. Cutting away the bulging disc tissue can permanently alter its ability to separate and cushion the adjacent bones. This rarely addresses the underlying structural cause of the problem.
The Chiropractic approach is to help restore a more normal motion and position of affected spinal bones with specific chiropractic adjustment. The simplicity and success of this approach has been documented in numerous research projects and has helped many patients avoid risky surgery.