What is back pain?

The spine is a complex structure which is central to the skeletal and nervous systems, enclosing and protecting the spinal cord. There are five areas of the spine starting with the neck (cervical) area, the upper back (thoracic) lower back (lumbar) then the sacral and coccygeal (tail bone) regions. The spinal cord is made up of millions of nerve fibres, which serve as a link for communication between the brain and other parts of the body. When back pain is experienced it usually originates from the structures of the spine and the messages relating to the feelings and sensations are sent to the brain via the spinal cord. Abnormal movement in the joint causes hyperactivity of the nervous system and this is communicated to the brain as pain. It is this message that tells us that something is wrong.

Most people will experience back pain at some time in their lives. The onset may have an obvious cause, such as lifting or bending awkwardly, but back pain may also be insidious and the origin may not always be obvious. Back problems can be caused by extended periods of over-use, such as sitting in the same position at a computer keyboard, long periods of driving, or accumulated stress to the joints and muscles of the back through every day activity.

Symptoms can be varied, but can include muscle spasms, tightness and contraction, stiffness, difficulty in moving and pain that may radiate throughout the body. The associated pain and muscle contraction may lead to a change in posture and a lean, either to one side or forward, is a common presentation associated with back pain. The severity of pain may be briefly alleviated by sitting, standing or lying down and this will vary from patient to patient.

The lower back supports a lot of our body weight and if the spine is not correctly aligned weakness can occur. Chiropractic adjustments apply gentle force to the abnormally displaced vertebrae, with the goal of improving functionality and relieving and correcting disorders in the musculosketal and nervous systems and their surrounding structures. The adjustments are used to bring the joint back to the normal operating position.

Back pain may present with many different symptoms and therefore it is very important to find the origin of these symptoms and eliminate the underlying problem.