The back is a complex structure made up of bone and muscle, supported by cartilage, tendons and ligaments, and fed by a network of blood vessels and nerves. Injury to any of these bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons can result in discomfort and pain. Back injuries are very common and can happen when you do activities that stretch or tear these muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Common back injuries include sprains and strains, herniated discs, or a fractured vertebra.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms of back injuries can range from a dull ache to a sharp intense pain in your muscles, and pain may extend to your leg that worsens with bending, twisting and lifting motions. Other symptoms include:
- Muscle spasms and cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness and muscle weakness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
- Bruising and swelling
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF INJURY?
There are many causes of back injuries. These include:
- Sprains and strains
The most common type of back injury, strains often occur from twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon in your back. A sprain usually happens as a result from a fall or sudden twist, or a trauma that forces a joint out of its normal position.
- Herniated discs
A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc, occurs when the disc slips out of position and pushes against the spinal cord or surrounding nerve roots, resulting in a compression of the nerve root as it pushes through the vertebral bones. A herniated disc often occurs with lifting or twisting movements.
- Fractured vertebra
A fractured vertebra (also known as a compression fracture) refers to a crack or gap in the vertebra. This is mostly due to the aging and weakening of the spine but can also be caused by trauma to the spine or from a fall.
WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?
A history of the injury and a physical examination of the back will be conducted by the Doctor. Imaging tests will be taken, such as a x-ray or CT scan to confirm the type of back injury, such as fractured bones or herniated discs.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
Depending on the type of back injury, treatment options will be different. People suffering from sprains and strains and herniated discs can recover with nonsurgical treatment methods. This includes:
- The use of ice and compression packs to help reduce pain and swelling
- Over-the-counter pain relief medications such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to help reduce pain and swelling
- Back supports such as a brace to support your back during healing
- Physiotherapy to regain muscle strength and restore mobility
For a fractured vertebra, should nonsurgical treatments fail to alleviate your symptoms, surgery may be recommended.