Sperling Medical Group

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2 Common Back Injuries

We take our backs for granted. We don’t really think about the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves and blood vessels that are carefully structured together from our neck to our hips…until trouble happens. When back pain occurs, it’s impossible to ignore. It literally follows you wherever you go, and the slightest move can elicit twinges of stabbing or burning pain to remind you it’s still there.

A common source of back pain is an injury of some kind, and the lower back seems to be the site most often affected. Back injuries can occur as the result of impact, overdoing repetitive movements, sudden exaggerated movement or twisting, and even improper ergonomics such as incorrect lifting or sitting all day with poor posture. Two common injuries are strains/sprains, and herniated disks.

Strains and sprains

Strains are injuries that result from pulling or tearing a muscle or tendon (the elastic tissues that connect muscle to bone). They are common athletic or sports injuries. Symptoms of a strain include pain, swelling, muscle spasms or difficulty moving the muscle.
Sprains are injuries that affect ligaments, the flat bands of tissue that connect bones where they meet in a joint. Pulling or tearing the ligament is the cause of a sprain, and this may result from falling, a hard impact, or a wrenching twist. Sprains of the lower back can be quite painful.

Both strains and sprains are usually treated by applying ice, wrapping the area, avoiding using it if possible, resting and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.

Herniated disks

Between each vertebra (backbone) there is a cushioning disk. “Herniated” means it is bulging or pushing out, and sometimes it can even rupture (lose the jelly-like substance from its core). Most herniated disks occur among young and middle-aged adults due to things like car accidents or heavy lifting. Depending on the location of the injury, not only is there local pain, but the resulting compression between vertebrae can squeeze or pinch nerves. There may be radiant pain, numbness or tingling.

Generally, an MRI scan is recommended to diagnose the problem. Most herniated disks will gradually heal if the person can minimize activity and get rest. Pain management strategies may be needed if pain is severe. In rare cases, surgery is needed to repair the disk.

Diagnosing back injury and pain

Back pain should always be taken seriously, and it’s important to consult a doctor. In addition to taking a medical history and events leading up to the pain, imaging is often recommended to identify the exact location and nature of the injury. Many types of back injury can cause complex pain situations, and it’s essential to distinguish injury from a chronic condition such as spinal osteoarthritis (facet joint pain). With correct diagnosis, and patience, most back injuries heal without invasive measures. For ongoing pain from facet joint arthritis, MRI guided Focused Ultrasound can help when medication fails.

Facet Pain