When your back hurts it feels like your whole body hurts. Sometimes it’s a dull ache, other times it feels like an electric shock running down your spine, but it is always an unwelcome pain. Whether your pain lasts for a few days, a few weeks, or longer is determined by certain types of back injuries.
Muscular – About half of all back injuries are the result of an overused or strained muscle. With approximately 77 muscles, the human back is very susceptible to muscular back injuries. Most of the time, gentle heat, rest and stretching are all that are needed to help these injuries heal. Of course, that’s not always easy considering our back muscles are involved in nearly every activity we do, including walking, sitting upright, standing and reaching. A back brace can help stabilize or immobilize the back muscles responsible for your pain.
Nerves – many of the most painful back injuries are those related to nerve damage. Sometimes, a nerve gets “pinched” between layers of muscle or between muscle and bone or between bones. The nerve sends intense pain signals to the brain, which tells the body to respond with swelling or stiffness in an attempt to stabilize the area. Unfortunately, this often causes the problem to persist as muscles tense and trap the nerve in the uncomfortable position. Complete rest or prescription muscle relaxers are often recommended as part of a treatment plan.
Spinal – While some chiropractors believe nearly every person has some degree of spinal misalignment, the most serious spinal injuries (besides paralysis) are those related to discs. When healthy, the soft cartilage and fluid-filled structures offer cushioning between the bony vertebrae of the spine. However, when these discs are damaged, bones rub together, pinching or crushing nerves, causing radiating pain throughout the body. Discs can “slip” out of position, become herniated (partially burst with or without leaking fluid), fully burst, or become crushed (completely flattened or destroyed)... all of which can be tremendously painful. Depending on the location of the injury, some people may be able to go about their regular activities without medical intervention. Others may require surgery to repair, replace or brace the injured area.
In all cases, having a strong back isn’t the only way to prevent injuries. The muscles of the abdominal region; your “core” muscles also play a significant role in stabilizing the back and maintaining the proper healthy posture to avoid injury.