Back Pain – Bulging/Herniated Discs – Sciatic Pain
Any or all of the above are interrelated when it comes to back pain. Back pain is a very complex problem that can be caused by single or multiple reasons. This page is dedicated to helping you understand what may be the cause of your back pain. Statistically speaking, back pain is cited as often as 80% among health care complaints.
It is important to understand how a healthy back functions in order to better understand the causes of back pain.
When we talk about back pain, bulging discs, etc., we are speaking specifically about the spine. The spine is the central component of our skeletal system and it is what gives our bodies the freedom of movement to bend and twist.
The spine is made up of 24 individual bones that are stacked on top of each other with a disc in between. It starts immediately below the skull and extends to and connects with the pelvis. It is beautifully designed to allow mobility and protection, lightweight yet very strong.
One of the main purposes of the spine is to protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord is the lifeline network of nerves that connect the body and the brain. It sends messages from outside and inside the body to the brain and responses from the brain back to the body.
A perfect example is a reflex. If you have ever placed your hand on something hot or sharp, the first thing you did was pull your hand away even before you know what had happened. Reflexes are hardwired into our nervous system to protect us from harm that may affect us before we have a chance to think about how to act.
Millions to billions of pieces of information enter the nervous system into the brain for a response. Imagine the entire 350 million population of the United States asking you different questions at the same time. The brain is an amazing organ but it needs the nervous system to carry all the signals.
Safe inside the spinal column, the spinal cord is protected against many dangerous forces. Should some force over come the protective bone, it can result in damage to the nerves. Symptoms from damaged nerves can manifest as pain, numbness, electric shock feelings and more.
As mentioned earlier, the spinal column is made from 24 individual vertebrae with vertebral discs in between.
The discs are there for many reasons. First and foremost, they act as separators between the vertebrae, allowing spinal nerves to exit between the bones to send and receive signals to and from the body.
Discs are made of tough fibrous cartilage that can compress and expand as we move, allowing the discs to function as shock absorbers. When a force enters the body, the discs allow this force to move through the spinal column without causing damage.
Many people do not understand that it is the two-part design of the disc that allows for spinal mobility. The outer part of the disc is called the Annulus Fibrosis. It is a very powerful fibrous cartilage that attaches the vertebrae both above and below. The center of the disc is called the Nucleus Pulposus and is made of a watery gel fluid held in place by the Annulus. The gel acts as a pivot point allowing us to bend forward, backward, sideways, and twist. When the disc is healthy it is thick, providing both maximum shock absorption and room for exiting spinal nerves.
The back part of the vertebrae is where the spinal joints known as Facet joints (similar to the joints in your fingers) are found.
They allow for movement in your spine and are important to maintain flexibility.
These joints can degenerate, causing poor to no motion in the spine. Improper joint motion can be considered a type of Osteoarthritis and can cause back pain.
The spine is an attachment point for hundreds of muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that work in harmony to create movement. When we want to bend backward we contract muscle groups that attach to the spine and pull back.
Vertebra can be pulled out of place when muscles spasm. When this happens it can have negative effects on how the spine moves. Depending on how far the vertebra is pulled it can cause a nerve to be pinched causing pain, numbness or tingling in the attached limb.
Keeping the spine healthy and mobile is very important. Exercise, nutrition, and chiropractic care can all be used to keep a spine strong and mobile.
As we previous talked about, the disc is between two vertebrae and are a very important part of the spine. The disc can degenerate due to many reasons. Accidents can cause an immediate and powerful force to enter the body causing damage to the discs. Damage can occur over long periods of time due to daily activities, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, carrying heavy loads or more.
We have to understand that every day we fight one of the biggest forces fighting against us. Gravity! Gravity pulls down on us every minute of every day causing what we term compression.
Over time this compression along with any of the other reasons listed about can cause damage to one or more discs.
What happens is the disc begins to thin and the center part, nucleus pulposus starts pushing out the back toward the spinal cord and nerves. As this disc begins pressing on the nerve it causes the nerve to react with symptoms. Numbness, Tingling, Shooting Pain, Electric Shock or more. Over time as the pressure continues the nerve becomes more and more damaged.
We talked about how important the nervous system is to normal body function and damaging the nerves by a disc pressing against it will prevent that nerve from normal function.
The MRI is the best way to detect a bulging disc. You can see from the MRI how the disc pushes back into the spinal cord canal and presses on the nerves. If you are experiencing any of the type of pain mentioned earlier an MRI can help to determine if a bulging disc is the reason.
An MRI can also show how serious the condition is. The larger the bulge the more nerves are compressed. This can lead to numerous symptoms.
As this continues it can lead to the inability to perform daily activities. Simple things as sitting, standing, walking, bending, twisting become more difficult. Some people have to use a cane or in many cases a walker.
If this is not corrected it can lead to a wheel chair. This can effect sleep, work, effect your ability to interact with your family, children and friends. It can be a serious condition that needs to be corrected before it takes away your ability to function.
Many people suffer from sciatic pain. It is pain coming from your back when pressure is compressing the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest spinal never in the body.
It exits from the spine in the low back running through the buttocks and into the thighs. As with all nerves it transmits signals from the muscles and skin of the thigh, lower legs and feet.
The sciatic nerve delivers both motor and sensory information enabling movement and feeling from the thigh, knee, calf, ankle foot and toes.
Since the sciatic nerve runs from the spinal column, disc bulging can press against the nerve causing what is known as sciatic pain. As the disc pushes against the nerve it will cause pressure on the nerve which can lead to “pinching” of the nerve.
This will cause the nerve to become inflamed and release chemicals that are irritating increasing the pain signal. As the nerve continues to be compressed it will degrade and the signal that travels along the nerve will be inhibited. This can lead to difficulty walking, sitting, standing, and bending which will lead to difficulty performing your daily activities. Allowed to continue without proper intervention you may need access to a cane, walker or in worse case scenarios a wheelchair.
Many people opt for surgery. Fortunately for 50% of the people who try it they have a successful outcome. Unfortunately for the other 50% the outcome is not successful. They have a term for this “Failed back surgery syndrome”. The problem with this is once the surgery is performed if it is unsuccessful there is nothing more that can be done.
Failed back surgery leaves you at best with the same pain you had prior to the surgery and at worst in more pain.
Should you be faced with back pain from either the neck or low back the best and safest method of reducing pain is decompression. We use decompression at Ocean Integrated Wellness with a 95% success rate. Saves you from failed back surgery, addicting drugs, and dangerous procedures.