From the category archives:

Types of Back Pain

Nearly 70% of all Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life. After the cold bug, it is the second most common reason people go to the doctor and call in sick to work. Much of the back pain experienced can be classified as acute pain. Acute pain is a short-term problem that is usually caused from activity or injury where the person experiences symptoms for less than a month. Many people who have acute pain will feel relief within two weeks or less. Chronic problems (pain experienced for usually longer than a month) are more often caused from degenerative conditions.

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Fibromyalgia Syndrome is an incapacitating, painful and uncomfortable chronic condition that affects the soft tissues of the body, e.g. muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There is not one definitive cause or trigger, but several symptoms that can help determine if a patient has the condition. It is a musculoskeletal disorder that is still somewhat of a mystery, but is recognized by the combination of several symptoms, such as muscle aches and general tiredness, so often doctors will perform many blood tests and x-rays first and then, by excluding other possibilities, finally determining that Fibromyalgia is the culprit.

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A back sprain is an injury to a ligament in the back, as opposed to a strain, which is an injury to the muscle. Ligaments are the fibrous tissues that connect the bones of the back, or more specifically the vertebrae. A sprain can occur when there is a quick or sudden movement, for example a car or bike accident, and the muscles of the back cannot react quickly enough to hold the spine in place, and so the ligaments holding the spine together are torn or stretched.

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Back strain or “pulled back” occurs when muscle fibers on the back are torn or stretched, which can occur from both trauma and a more gradual overuse. Strains often happen while lifting something improperly or lifting too heavy a weight, but occasionally strains occur for no apparent reason. Other strains can come from overuse or repetitive motion such as twisting and leaning while at a workstation. This overuse fatigues the muscles and makes them weaker so they are susceptible to a strain.

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Invertebral disks are the soft padlike cushioning between each vertebra that acts as a shock absorber for the spine and all of its different parts. Herniated disks are disks that rupture or bulge out between the vertebrae and begin to pinch the nerves in the spine and the spinal cord. It is possible for disks in the upper part of the spine to herniate, but it is most common in the lower, or lumbar, region. Sometimes called ruptured or slipped disk or pinched nerve, most doctors are referring to the same thing; the bulging disk between the vertebrae that is causing a person pain.

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Spinal osteoarthritis is a disease in the joints of the spine. Each vertebra has joints that connect them. A lubricating connective tissue, called cartilage, helps the joints bend and move fluidly. As cartilage breaks down, the vertebrae are unable to smoothly glide, so the bones of the spine or the facet joints (the joints where the vertebrae are connected) begin to rub together. This degeneration of the cartilage is called osteoarthritis, spondylosis, or degenerative joint disease.

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Osteoporosis is a disease where the bones become brittle, porous, and fragile and break easily. Any bone can break with osteoporosis, but breaks most often occur in the hips, wrists and spine (vertebrae).

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Back spasms are unusual, involuntary and sometimes prolonged contractions of a muscle in the back. Back spasms can occur in any muscle in the back, but most often occur in the lower back. There is a high concentration of nerve endings in that region, so spasms occurring there are especially painful and can sometimes be debilitating for weeks. Two thirds of Americans experience back pain in their lives, but not all of those patients have muscle spasms.

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