Considering the spinal column provides the main support structure for the body, it is under a lot of pressure to do its job well. Moreover, the spine protects the nerves inside its spinal canal. These nerves travel through the spine and branch off on the sides. And when any one part of the spine runs into trouble, it can cause back or neck pain. It can be as simple as a sprain or strain.
A sprain is the stretching or tearing of the ligament. A strain is an injury that affects the muscle or tendon. Any time a person stretches or tears the muscle, ligament, or tendon, it can cause a range of symptoms.
An Overview of the Spinal Column
Before delving into neck and back sprains and strains, here’s a look at how the spinal column works. The spine contains five regions. The top begins with the cervical region followed by the thoracic region. In the middle is the lumbar region followed by the sacral and coccygeal regions.
The lumbar region consists of five lumbar vertebrae. Medical professionals refer to the specific vertebrae as L1 to L5. These comprise the main weight-bearing part of the spinal column. Between each vertebra is a disc to help the spine to twist and bend.
The discs have an inner layer of soft cartilage that cushions the bones. Surrounding the soft cartilage is a layer of tough cartilage. Think of the disc as a jelly donut. The outside of the donut is that protective cartilage called the disc annulus. The soft cartilage is the jelly known as the nucleus pulposus.
What Are Neck Strains?
When a neck muscle or tendon stretches or tears, it’s called a neck strain. Some people refer to it as a pulled muscle.
A neck strain can cause a range of symptoms including:
- Pain in the back of the neck
- Headache in the back of the head
- Muscle spasm and pain in the shoulder
- Fatigue, trouble sleeping, trouble focusing, and irritability
- Numbness in the arm or hand
- Tingling or weakness in the arms
- Stiffness in the neck
What causes neck strain? The most common causes are:
- Poor posture
- Lifting a heavy item
- Fall or collision
- Doing a new activity
- Repetitive motion
Sometimes a cause can’t be identified. Neck strains can be sudden or gradual. They may start out painful and ease up. Or they may start small and grow worse. The good news is that most neck strains go away within a week. Severe strains may take three months to heal.
What Are Sprains and Strains in the Back?
As previously mentioned, the spine is a complex structure. After all, it bears the brunt of the body’s weight. Not only does it have nerves and bone, but it also has muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
With all that humans do with the back, it’s no surprise that back strains and sprains are common. Incorrectly lifting something heavy can cause a strain in which a person pulls a muscle or tendon. A sprain, on the other hand, typically results after a fall or sudden twisting motion.
The following are symptoms of back strain or sprain:
- Pain that grows worse with movement
- Muscle spasms and cramping
- Reduced range of motion
Many things can cause a back sprain or strain. But the most common are excessively curving the lower back, being overweight, and weak back or abdominal muscles.
The treatment for back or neck pain resulting from sprains and strains vary. Fortunately, there are a lot of conservative treatments available today. A doctor will review the patient’s medical history and conduct a diagnostic workup.
In some scenarios, the doctor may order imaging such as an MRI, CT, or X-rays. If the neck or back pain worsens or hasn’t improved after a week, then it may be time to call a back and spine 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.