5 Mechanical Problems That Fuel Back Pain

5 Mechanical Problems That Fuel Back Pain

Millions of people suffer from back pain, making it one of the most common reasons for women and men to visit their doctors. While some acute back pain is caused by muscle strain, falls, or other accidents, many painful symptoms are driven by underlying problems with the spine or its components.

A top-ranked pain management physician in Carmel, Indianapolis, and Kokomo, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, offers patient-centered, custom-tailored treatment plans for back pain, based not just on a patient’s symptoms but on an in-depth understanding of their anatomy, their lifestyle, and their medical histories. Here are five of the most common mechanical problems associated with chronic pain.

1. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and happens when your bones become less dense. While some metabolic diseases can affect bone density, osteoporosis is almost solely associated with older age, especially among women.

When your bones become less dense, they’re more prone to features. Most people think osteoporosis contributes to hip fractures, and that’s certainly an issue. But spinal fractures can also occur because of osteoporosis — and in fact, they’re more common.

Also called compression fractures, tiny osteoporosis fractures in your vertebrae cause your bones to compress and lose some of their natural height, which means the spaces between the bones become narrower. Over time, these changes can lead to nerve pain, posture-related pain, and, sometimes, an unnatural curvature in your spine. 

2. Disc degeneration

Disc degeneration is another problem that becomes more common as we age. Aging causes our spongy discs to lose some water content, making them less resilient. It also makes them flatter, which means there’s less space between the spine bones — and less room for nerves to exit the spine.  

Disc degeneration can lead to nerve compression, with painful symptoms occurring in your back or anywhere along the nerve path — even down your legs or arms. Sometimes, little cracks or tears can appear in the disc, which may lose some of its gel-like material. If the fluid leaks too much, it can irritate your nerves.

Other disc problems can cause acute and chronic back pain, including disc herniation and ruptured discs from falls and other accidents.

3. Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic condition that affects your joints, and while most people think of arthritis in their weight-bearing joints or their hands, it can also affect the joints in your spine. Your spine contains many joints — there’s a joint between each pair of vertebrae, and any of these joints can develop painful arthritis.

Arthritis causes inflammation inside a joint, most often associated with years of wear- and-tear on the joint surface. Sometimes, hard bone spurs form along the edges of arthritis joints, interfering with normal movement and pressing on nerves — another cause of chronic back pain.

4. Spinal stenosis

Stenosis means “narrowing,” and in spinal stenosis, it's the spinal canal that starts to narrow, compressing the nerves that travel inside it. Spinal stenosis can affect any area of the spine, but it’s most common in the lumbar (lower) and the cervical (neck) spine, the two parts that are most flexible (and most subjected to repeated strain).

Stenosis can happen along the spinal canal length and at the areas where the nerves leave the canal to travel to other parts of the body. The location of stenosis has a significant bearing on the symptoms you experience. 

Spinal injuries, tumors, arthritis-related changes, bony overgrowths, disc problems, and thick ligaments can all play a role in spinal stenosis. Like many other mechanical causes of spine pain, stenosis tends to become more common as we age.

5. Spinal deformities

While your spine is designed to have some gentle curves to support your body, sometimes the spine curves in unusual ways, causing chronic aches and pains. When most people think of abnormal spinal curvature, they think of scoliosis — but there are other curvature problems, too.

Scoliosis can affect young people whose spines are still developing, but it can affect adults, too. Two other types of spine curvature — lordosis and kyphosis — tend to happen more often as we age. Each type causes a different kind of curvature:

All three curvature problems can cause significant back pain, along with pain in other areas of your body.

To learn how we can help you find relief for your chronic back pain, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Gentile today.

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