Your back is a complicated structure composed of bones, discs, joints, ligaments, muscles, and other tissues. When any part of that structure is injured, stressed, or thrown out of alignment, the resulting discomfort can make it difficult to perform even the simplest tasks. Common causes of back pain include:
Painful microscopic tears in your muscles or ligaments can be caused by strain, such as lifting a heavy object. They can also be brought on by a sudden movement, such as turning or twisting too quickly. When back pain is caused by daily activities, it may be an overuse injury, or one that stems from a stressful pattern of muscle use.
Any injury that moves your spine out of alignment can cause one of your spinal discs, or the rubbery cushions that sit between the vertebrae of your spine, to push outside of its usual space and put pressure on nearby nerves. A bulging disc can also herniate, or rupture.
A pinched nerve is the term used to describe a nerve root that has been compressed, impinged, stretched, or damaged by surrounding tissues. A nerve may be pinched by bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, or spinal discs that are out of alignment.
You may feel back pain in the form of general muscle aches, shooting or stabbing pain, or pain that radiates from your lower back down into your leg. It’s often accompanied by restricted flexibility and a limited range of motion.
It’s important to seek immediate medical care if your back pain began following an accident or other acute trauma, because often, successful treatment depends on early diagnosis and intervention. Symptoms that you should never ignore include:
If your back pain began after a car accident or some other type of trauma, you already know what’s responsible for your pain. What you won’t know until you have a complete evaluation by an experienced physician, is the exact nature of the injury that’s causing your pain.
Because the first step in any successful back pain treatment program is a proper diagnosis, the team at WolMed begins with a comprehensive back examination to find out the exact cause of your pain.
This may include asking you to rate your pain when you sit, stand, walk, or lift your legs. It may also include diagnostic testing, including X-rays to determine if you have any bone fractures, nerve studies to discover hidden nerve damage, and MRI or CT scans to check for muscle, tendon, disc, or ligament damage.