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Back Pain in the Upper Spine

By Debra Rodzinak

The spine is one of the most complex parts of the body.  Made up of 33 bones, tissue, nerves, and fluid, the spine extends from the base of the skull down to the base of the pelvis.  Encased inside the bones of the spine is a protective cylinder of fluid that holds the nerve tissues of the spinal cord.  To keep the spinal bones, or vertebrae, from rubbing against each other, an intervertebral disc, or cartilage band, sits between each vertebrae and acts as a shock absorber for the entire spine. 

The 33 different vertebrae are broken up into four different sections.  Beginning with the skull and working downward:

  • Cervical vertebrae encompass the seven vertebrae that form the top of the spine and support the head on the neck
  • Thoracic vertebrae contain the 12 bones between the neck and lower back
  • Lumbar vertebrae are the five largest and strongest vertebrae that move the most and sit between the hips and chest
  • The final part of the spine is made up of nine vertebrae that are fused together and encompass the sacrum and the tailbone (coccyx).

Most back pain occurs in the parts of the spine that involve the most freedom of movement.  It's rare but possible the sacrum and coccyx experience pain.  Instead, the most mobile part of the spine, the lumbar region, is the area from which chiropractors hear the most complaints.

Cervical Radiculopathy

The other part of the spine that is flexible and experiences pain is the cervical vertebrae.  The cervical part of the spine often is damaged from an accident or sports injury.  If the nerve roots of the cervical vertebrae become compressed, damage to these nerve roots can cause pain and weakness or even numbness in the neck, arms, shoulder, or other areas of the body, depending on where the damage is located.

Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy

If a disc ruptures or bones change due to degenerative disc disease, arthritis, or other injuries, pressure can be put on the nerve roots.  For older adults, degenerative changes are often the cause of pain or numbness in the arms, shoulders, or back.  In younger adults, damage to the cervical vertebra of the spine may result in a ruptured disc and are often from an accident or sports injury.

Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy

The most common symptom of cervical radiculopathy is pain that radiates to the neck, shoulders, chest, or arm.  Muscle weakness or numbness may also accompany this pain and cause the fingers or hands to tingle.  Inability to do intricate movements is an indicator of a cervical spine injury. 

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, drop by The Joint Chiropractic today.  One of the chiropractors can work with you to develop a treatment plan that puts you in charge.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local Houston chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.


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