Your back consists of five vertebrae in the lower or lumbar spine, seven vertebrae in the neck and 12 vertebrae in the upper or thoracic spine for a total of 19 vertebrae. Underneath your lumbar vertebrae sits five bones fused together called a sacrum. Two pelvic bones join the sacrum to create the trunk base and then a tailbone, also called a coccyx, is the final piece of your spinal column that helps to keep the others together.
Your spinal column also receives support from surrounding muscles to keep it in alignment. It’s important to understand the basic structure of your back when you experience pain or symptoms of an injury. Below is a list of the most common types of injuries as well as what typically causes them.
Discs are pieces of cartilage that separate the vertebrae of the spinal column from each other. They primarily contain blood vessels and water. Herniation occurs when one or more discs tear and the contents spill out and put additional pressure on the nerves.
This condition occurs when nerve roots located near the central vertebrae become compressed. Pain typically appears in the neck and spreads to the shoulders. Tingling in the hands and fingers and muscle weakness are additional symptoms of a pinched nerve.
Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
Spondylolisthesis causes severe pain in the buttocks or lower back. The pain can also move to the legs and occasionally cause issues with bladder or bowel control. It’s important to visit a doctor right away if you have these symptoms. Spondylolysis refers to a stress fracture in a vertebrae or bone of the spinal column. Although uncomfortable, it is not as serious of a condition as spondylolisthesis.
Sprains and Strains
The lower back is at a higher risk of injury than other parts of the body because it absorbs a lot of the stress from typical everyday movements such as bending and lifting. A sprain occurs when ligaments, which are a band of tissues surrounding the bones of the spine, become torn from the attachments surrounding them. Strains happen when the muscle fibers of the neck and back become stretched beyond their normal capacity or experience a tear.
When to See a Doctor About Back Pain
The good news about back pain is that it’s common and usually not serious. It will usually go away on its own with rest and other home remedies. However, we encourage you to contact us at Capital City Neurosurgery for a consultation if the pain persists for more than six weeks, it seems to get worse instead of better, and you have other significant symptoms such as weight loss or fever. We look forward to helping you live pain-free again.