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Common Back Injuries

The Most Common Back Related Injuries and Their Treatments

Living with back pain can take a physical and emotional toll on a person’s back. The good news is there are ways to get the pain to go away. But before taking a look at the most common back injuries, it is important to understand how the back works.

As shown in the above diagram, the spine has 24 different vertebrae. (The 5 sacral vertebrae at the bottom combine to form a bone called the sacrum.) Between each vertebrae are rubbery spinal discs acting like shock absorbers to cushion the spine as the body moves. Surrounding muscle holds the spine together.

  1. Back strain. A strain is an over stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon. Symptoms include pain in and around the affected area, swelling, muscle spasms, and limited mobility. The easiest way to treat back strain is with bed rest and ice. To reduce pressure as much as possible keep the spine parallel to the ground. When using ice, do not apply it directly to the skin. Wrap a towel around it instead. Put the ice on the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for 20 minutes. This should reduce swelling and pain..


  1. Damaged spinal disc. The diagram from earlier shows how there is a spinal disc between each vertebrae in the back that acts like a cushion. When something goes wrong with those disc, it hurts! The two most common spinal disc related injuries are bulging disc and herniated disc.

From looking at this diagram, one can see how herniated and bulging disc’ look alike. A herniated disc occurs when a vertebrae cracks, causing the soft tissue to stick out (the soft tissue is represented by the blue blob.) Whereas a bulging disc occurs when a disc moves outside the space it is supposed to be in.  When a spinal disc sticks out, it puts painful pressure on a person’s nerves. Symptoms of both include butt, arm, leg or back pain. Other symptoms are weakness, numbness or tingling. However, most people with a herniated or bulging spinal disc will not experience any pain at all, as it tends to occur naturally due to aging. It can be treated with physical therapy or by going on an anti-inflammation diet.

  1. Spondylolysis. (spon-dee-low-lye-sis) This happens when a crack forms in the bones or vertebrae. There are no known causes, but it is more common in adolescent males and those who play sports. The symptoms are lower back pain, stiffness and muscle spasms. Treatments include back braces, physical therapy and surgery.


  1. Spinal stenosis. In the medical field, stenosis means narrowing. When used with the word “spinal” it means spinal narrowing. Spinal stenosis puts pressure on spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This condition usually affects those over 50 and is almost always natural. Spinal stenosis can cause pain, tingling and numbness in the hands, feet, arms and back, as well as weakness. If spinal stenosis occurs in the neck, it can also cause neck pain and bladder dysfunction. If it occurs in the lower back, it can cause pain or cramping in the legs from standing or walking. Treatments involve physical therapy, exercise, and surgery.

Unfortunately most back related injuries result from the decay that comes with aging. Because of this most back injuries do not have a cure per say. But being proactive and living a healthy lifestyle can reduce the odds of a back injury occurring. For help with living a healthy lifestyle, read this blog about relieving back pain by losing weight.

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