Back Pain Overview
Back pain is a very debilitating symptom that can effect the quality of life for the individual upon who it afflicts. The human spine is one of the most important structures in the body. It harbors most of the weight of the body. It is the column that the body is built upon. The human spine has to support a majority of the mass of the upper body. It also has to absorb the shock caused by walking in the everyday setting. Because the spine is responsible for so much it often becomes a target for arthritis and wear and tear. We only get one spine, and over time the wear and tear from all these physical processes, and the resulting rebuilding and remodeling process can cause pain. The other highly important function of the spine is to house the spinal cord. The spinal cord is an extension of the human brain. It connects your thoughts to your body's actions. Without your spinal cord you would be paraplegic or quadriplegic depending on which level and degree it was affected. Pain sensing nerves course throughout your spine in order get to different areas of your body. These nerves radiate out from the spinal cord to your arms and legs in order to control touch sensations and movements. If you affect these nerves then there is a high probability that you will have amplified pain on top of the pain caused by arthritis. This is often called neuropathy. Now that you know a little bit about the functions of the spine and the spinal cord we can discuss specific issues that can arise as a result of wear and tear on your spine.
Sciatica: this is a result of irritation on the nerves as they come out of the spinal cord. This is most often due to wear and tear of the spine causing vertebral disk herniation. In between every single back bone or vertebrae in the spine there is a spongy, rubbery shock absorbing disk that is used to withstand the impact that each step puts on the back. With age this disk can pop out of place and rupture backward into the spinal canal. This is where the spinal cord is housed.
Back Pain Cont.
This back pain caused by pressure from the disk onto the spinal cord and the nerves leaving the spinal cord can lead to electrical pain that radiates down the back of the leg. This pain can travel as far as the toe. Many people have this type of pain. It can be a debilitating cause of back pain that can warrant pain therapy. Gabapentin can help with the electrical pain and pain medications can help with the arthritic pain issues.
Arthritis: This is a condition caused by the wear and tear of the joints of the back. Each back bone, or vertebrae has to be connected to the vertebrae above and below it by a joint. This keeps the back mobile and flexible while still allowing it to retain the durable properties of bone. But if these joints break down over time then they can cause severe pain. Because there are so many joints the combined pain can be debilitating. Also between these joints are highly sensitive pain sensing nerves. If these nerves are affected by the wear and tear of the back then it can cause a symptom known as neuropathy. The best way to address arthritis is to do physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the back. If this does not work then pain medication is indicated in order to treat the arthritic pains in the back. Nerve medication such as Gabapentin can also be prescribed to halt the transmission of pain signals from affected spinal nerves causing neuropathy and neuropathic pain. Surgery is not usually indicated for arthritis.
Emergencies: If you are experiencing muscle weakness, numbness or tingling along with bowel or bladder leakage your spinal cord could be in danger. These symptoms are the beginning symptoms for complete compromise of the spinal cord. If you are having these symptoms see your doctor immediately evaluation. These are the indications for emergency spinal surgery to decompress the spine.