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The 411 On Back Pain

As we have discussed in previous articles, back pain causes millions of people to seek treatment every year, and is such a widespread problem, that nearly everyone has experienced or knows someone who has experienced back pain in some form. So what exactly is back pain? How does our anatomy play in to it? What are the treatment options? And how can I prevent it in the first place?

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is a broad term that encompasses any and all forms of discomfort in the back, from the lower back to the base of the neck, and from minor discomfort to debilitating pain. Some people experience chronic back pain, and others are met with symptoms of acute pain. The pain can be sharp or radiating, throbbing or localized. Since “back pain” can have so many different meanings based on circumstances, it is helpful to understand the basic anatomy of the back and how anomalies or injury can influence pain.

Anatomy of the Back and Spine

Most people are familiar with the fact that the spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are stacked upon one another, and in between each one is a disc that functions as a shock, like the ones on your vehicle. It helps absorb the impact the spine takes on a daily basis from actions like running or even sitting. The spinal cord (containing nerves that spread to all parts of the body) is housed in the middle of the vertebrae. Finally, muscles and supporting structure like ligaments attach to the spine and other bones both for protection and for movement.

Treatment Options

When a person experiences an injury to the spine, the first thing that needs to be done is proper diagnosis of the issue. One individual could have a strained muscle, which usually presents as a localized pain, and can be either sharp or dull. This is treated differently than a bulging disk.  A patient with a bulging disk may experience radiating pain, as the disk can push against a nerve, and the pain can range across the spectrum but usually causes great discomfort. After understanding the diagnosis, non-invasive methods of treatment are recommended because they do not expose surrounding tissue to excessive damage. Chiropractic is a wonderful non-invasive treatment option because it zeroes in on the cause of the pain and treats that, rather than simply addressing and covering over the symptoms.


There are ways an individual can work to prevent back pain. The most basic method is regular exercise. Strengthening the body, especially the core, helps support the spine. Focusing on maintaining good posture is also key, because this too will strengthen the back and prevent long term complications.


*Disclaimer: Always consult your physician or other health care professional before seeking treatment or taking related advice herein.*

Story Credit: Low Back Pain by Denise M. Goodman, MD, MS; Alison E. Burke, MA; Edward H. Livingston, MD

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