Back and Neck Pain

What is back and neck pain?

Back pain can range from a mild,
dull, annoying ache, to persistent, severe, disabling pain. Pain in your back can limit
your ability to move. It can interfere with normal functioning and quality of life.
Always talk with your healthcare provider if you have persistent pain.

Neck pain occurs in the area of the
cervical vertebrae in your neck. Because of its location and range of motion, your neck
is often left unprotected and at risk for injury.

Pain in your back or neck area can
come on suddenly and intensely. Chronic pain lasts for weeks, months, or even years. The
pain can be constant or come and go.

What causes back and neck pain?

Even with today’s technology, the
exact cause of back and neck pain is hard to find. In most cases, back and neck pain may
have many different causes. They include:

  • Overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use, such as repetitive or heavy lifting
  • Trauma, injury, or fractures
  • Breakdown of vertebrae, often caused
    by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support your spine, or the effects of
    aging
  • Infection
  • Abnormal growth, such as a tumor or bone spur
  • Obesity. This put extra weight on your
    spine, and pressure on your disks.
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Sprain or strain
  • Ligament or muscle tears
  • Joint problems, such as arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Slipped disk (protruding or herniated
    disk) and pinched nerve
  • Osteoporosis and compression fractures
  • Problems of your vertebrae and bones
    that you were born with (congenital)
  • Abdominal problems, such as an aortic aneurysm 

What are the symptoms of back and neck pain?

Symptoms linked to back pain may
include:

  • Dull, burning, or sharp pain in your
    back.  The pain can be limited to a single spot or cover a large area.
  • Leg numbness or tingling above or below your knee
  • Stiffness or aching that occurs
    anywhere along your spine from your neck to your tailbone
  • Sharp, shooting pain that spreads from your low back to your buttocks, down the back of  your thigh, and into your calf and toes
  • Consistent ache in the middle or lower
    part of your back, especially after standing or sitting for a long period

Loss of bladder and bowel control,
with weakness in both legs, are symptoms of a serious condition that needs medical
attention right away.

Symptoms linked to neck pain can
be:

  • Arm numbness or tingling
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sharp shooting pain or a dull ache in your neck

Pain that occurs suddenly in your
back or neck from an injury ia acute pain. Acute pain comes on quickly and may leave
sooner than chronic back or neck pain. This type of pain should not last more than 6
weeks.

Pain that may come on quickly or
slowly and lingers for 3 months or greater is chronic pain. Chronic pain is less common
than acute pain.

How are back and neck pain diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask
about your health history and do a physical exam. He or she may also do X-rays of the
affected areas, as well as an MRI. This allows a more complete view.  The MRI also makes
pictures of soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. The MRI can help
spot infection, tumor, inflammation, or pressure on your nerve. Sometimes a blood test
may help diagnose arthritis, a condition that can cause back and neck pain.