Do you Suffer from Spinal Pain?
There are numerous possible pain producers in and around the spine including muscles, nerves, soft connective tissue, ligaments, joint capsules, cartilage and blood vessels. These tissues may be pulled, strained, stretched or sprained. Small tears that occur in the outer layer of the intervertebral disc can also initiate severe pain. Even if the actual tissue damage is minor and likely to repair quickly, the pain experienced may be quite severe.
Pain is generated from numerous chemical substances that are released in response to tissue irritation. These substances stimulate the surrounding pain-sensitive nerve fibres, resulting in the sensation of pain. Some of these chemicals trigger inflammation or swelling, which also contributes to pain.
Interesting fact: 80% of people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives.
The most common pain generators of the spine are explained below and they can appear in the neck (cervical), upper (thoracic) spine and lower (lumbar) spine.
The most common type of low back pain originates from the facet joints. The facet joints are in pairs either side of the vertebra. Each vertebra has four facet joints, two at the top (superior articular process) and two at the bottom (inferior articular process). These joints articulate with the vertebra above and below. In the thoracic spine there are also an extra two joints either side of the vertebra that the ribs articulate with.
The facet joints can become injured from trauma or strained when the stress distribution becomes abnormal. Over time, this leads to irritation, dysfunction and abnormal wearing of the facet joint surfaces. If a bone gets stuck forward for example, this creates uneven stress distribution above and below that vertebra. When a vertebra gets stuck forward, the body will then move other vertebrae in order to compensate and counterbalance and this will only lead to further dysfunction over time. The most common cause of facet joint stress is a postural abnormality.
When the fact joints become irritated they can become inflamed and this not only results in local pain either side of the spine but also referred pain. Referred pain can occur into the upper and lower limbs in a pattern that is usually readily identifiable.
Intervertebral Disc (IVD)
The IVD’s sit between the vertebra, acting like a shock absorbing cushion that is soft enough to allow the spine to move and bend around its centre point. IVD related pain is covered in more depth on the disc injury page.
Spinal nerves can be stretched due to axial spinal cord tension or compressed and irritated from the inflammatory response of an injured structure adjacent to the nerve. Nerve stretch, compression or irritation can lead to local or referred pain. Referred pain can radiate into the arm or leg depending on where the site of compression or irritation is. If a spinal nerve is compressed this can also lead to weakness in the arm or leg.
The muscles that surround the spine and pelvis can become strained due to long standing abnormal stress and strain. Long term muscle strain leads to pain and weakness.
Spinal pain can be treated sucessfully using various chiropractic techniques if it is not related to a fracture, cancer or infection, so contact us if you would like to know more.