The spine is a marvelous thing because it contains many moving parts to hold the body upright. And it allows the body to bend, twist, and stand. The spine also supports the head with its movements and manages the flow of blood to the brain. The spine has a big job of protecting the spinal cord. Nerves inside the spine branch off the spinal cord.
A Quick Review of the Spinal Anatomy
Housing the major nerves that run from the brain down the legs and arms, the spine is comprised of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The bones making up the building blocks of the spine are called vertebrae.
The spinal column has five regions beginning with the top and working down:
- Lumbar region
Each region has multiple vertebrae. Between the vertebrae is a disc with an inner layer of soft cartilage known as the nucleus pulposus. A layer of tough cartilage called the disc annulus surrounds the nucleus pulposus.
The disc is like a jelly donut. The jelly is the soft cartilage and the donut is a tough outer layer. Discs cushion the bones and allow the spine to twist and bend.
This a lot of work for such a long, thin structure. With all these pieces working together, the spine is one of the more complicated parts of the human anatomy. That’s why it’s often the source of many problems.
Causes of Back Pain
Because the spine contains many components, a lot of things can lead to back pain. Here are some of the most common causes of back pain.
Herniated disc: With a herniated disc, the disc’s jelly either ruptures or breaks through the outer layer of the disc known as the annulus. The spinal canal is very narrow. So, it doesn’t take much when the jelly spills out into the canal and compresses the spinal cord, nerve root, or neural foramen. A herniated disc is also known as a slipped or ruptured disc.
Degenerative disc disease: As part of the aging process, wear and tear in the spinal joints and discs is common. The discs are drying out, which can flatten them or create bone spurs. They’re often the cause of back pain and other symptoms. This results in degenerative disc disease.
Spinal osteoarthritis: When the protective cartilage wears out, it can no longer lubricate the joints. Also known as degenerative joint disease, spinal OA typically occurs in the facet joints. This cartilage appears between the bones in the spine.
You may be wondering why sciatica doesn’t appear in this list. That’s because sciatica is a symptom just like back pain is a symptom. Let the doctor know if you experience sciatica to help narrow down the possible causes.
These are just some of the possibilities out of many. If you’re experiencing back pain that lasts more than a week, it may be time to call a doctor.
Have a question? Please contact us or call 214-823-2052. We have two conveniently located offices in Addison and Dallas serving patients in Dallas, Addison, Plano, Frisco, Garland, and other cities in the DFW metroplex.