Neck and Back 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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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
What are possible complications of neck and back pain?
Complications of back and neck pain may include:
Loss of productivity : Back pain is the most common reason for disability in working adults.
Nerve damage : If your back pain is from a herniated disk, pressure on the spinal nerves may cause a variety of problems, such as weakness, numbness, or severe shooting pain that travels from the back to the leg.
Depression : Back or neck pain can disrupt all aspects of life. This includes work, physical exercise, social activities, and sleep. The anxiety and stress caused by the change in movement and pain can lead to depression.
Weight gain : Loss of movement and inability to exercise can lead to weight gain and the loss of muscle strength.
It is a good idea to see a healthcare provider if you have numbness or tingling, or if your pain is severe and does not get better with medicine and rest. If you have trouble urinating, have weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs, fever, or unintentional weight loss, call your healthcare provider right away