The Basics of Back Injuries

July 14, 2020

basic back injuries

basic back injuriesIt’s important to understand the basics of back injuries since, according to what we’ve seen here at North Boulder Physical Therapy, many people will have a minor back problem sometime in their lives.

Back problems can develop from overuse, regular wear and tear, or injury. Back injuries often occur during home projects, sports or recreational activities, or work-related incidents and can cause issues from the neck to the tailbone(coccyx). Generally, the back includes the bones and joints of the spine (vertebrae), the discs that separate the vertebrae and absorb the shock of movement, and the muscles and ligaments that hold the spine together.

Back injuries usually happen when you do activities that you’re not used to doing, like lifting heavy things or doing strenuous yard work. Minor injuries can happen from things like falling, tripping, or twisting of the spine. The really major back injuries usually are a result of car accidents, falls from high up, direct hits to the back or the top of the head, a hard fall onto the buttocks, or a penetrating injury like a stab wound.

Of course, your risk for back pain and injury increases with age, being sedentary, pulling or lifting heavy objects, a family history of back pain, or a degenerative disease such as osteoporosis. Most back issues occur in adults ages 20 to 50. If people under 20 and over 50 have back pain it is usually from more serious causes.

Bad posture can make back pain worse if your back is injured or strained. if good posture causes you back pain, you may have a problem with a disc or bones in your back.

Pain from an acute back injury usually does not last longer than 6 weeks. Those would include an injury to the ligaments or muscles in the back, such as a sprain or strain, or a fracture or dislocation of the spine, a torn or ruptured disc.

An injury that causes the compression of nerves in the lower back can cause pain but usually goes away in about a month without much treatment. Sometimes these types of injuries occur from improper movement or posture while lifting, standing, walking, or sitting, or even when sleeping.

Some back pain is not related to an injury but comes from another cause. It could be from certain conditions that weaken the spine, such as ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, or Paget’s disease can cause back pain, most commonly found in older adults.

In some rare cases, back pain may be caused by tumors or infections that develop in or around the spine. There are other medical conditions that can cause pain to spread to the back from other parts of the body (referred pain). Many health problems that can cause back pain have nothing to do with the bones, joints, muscles, or ligaments of the back.

Spinal deformities such as scoliosis, kyphosis (Scheuermann’s disease), and spondylolisthesis can also be the cause back pain. In addition, chronic pain syndrome caused by a previous injury or degenerative disease with aging can be the culprit for back pain.

Minor back injuries can usually be treated at home and the pain will usually go away by itself in a few weeks. As your back is healing you should avoid heavy lifting and activities that can strain your back, as you continue your regular activities.

Now that you know the basics of back injuries, treatment from North Boulder Physical Therapy is one of your next steps. We provide physical therapy, manipulative therapy and can help ensure a more successful recovery if surgery becomes necessary.