Common back and spine conditions and injuries


Overview of common back and spine conditions and injuries

Your spine consists of 33 bony vertebrae plus spinal discs, muscles, ligaments, tendons, fluid, and your spinal cord. Injury or damage to any of these areas can cause spine problems.

If you’ve had a back or spine injury, you can receive all of the diagnosis and treatment options you need at Dignity Health. Find a doctor today.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of common spine conditions and injuries often depend on which spinal nerves are affected. Generally, spine problems cause back pain, which may limit or get worse with movement. Spine conditions that affect your spinal cord can lead to a wide range of symptoms because your spinal cord carries nerve signals throughout your body.

Nerve-related symptoms include:

  • Pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs, depending on the affected nerves
  • Loss of coordination, difficulty walking, or climbing stairs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

It’s essential to see a doctor right away if you have back pain with any nerve symptoms. Some spinal conditions and injuries require urgent (same day) or emergency care for rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Causes

Spine conditions are rare, and the most common cause is traumatic injury. Almost half of all injuries to the spine are caused by car crashes.

Sporting activities such as diving, contact sports, horseback riding, and others are also common sources of injury.

Arthritis, degenerative joint disease, repetitive strenuous activities, improper lifting, and tumors are other common causes of non-trauma-related spine problems. Spine conditions can also be present at birth.

Types

There are four regions in your spine:

  • Cervical (neck)
  • Thoracic (middle and upper back)
  • Lumbar (low back)
  • Sacral (pelvic area)

Common spine conditions and injuries include:

  • Herniated discs
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Spinal nerve compression
  • Spinal deformity
  • Spinal fractures
  • Spinal tumors

Risk factors

Some of the factors that can increase the risk of spine conditions include:

  • Genes (some spinal conditions are inherited disorders such as scoliosis)
  • Age (spinal injuries and back pain become more common with advanced age as the structures of the spine wear down and degenerate over time)
  • Previous spinal injury
  • Being overweight or having a weak spine or abdominal (core) muscles
  • Using poor form when weightlifting or lifting heavy objects (for example by lifting with your back instead of your legs)
  • Smoking
  • History of conditions like arthritis
  • Gender (likely due to behavioral and occupational factors, spine injuries are most common in young men)

Prevention

You can keep your back as healthy as possible by:

  • Avoiding slouching and keeping your head in line with your shoulders and hips, whether you are standing or sitting, to maintain good posture
  • Using good ergonomic setups at your workplace
  • Using proper body mechanics while lifting, which means lifting with your legs and keeping the item you are carrying close to your body
  • Strengthening your back muscles and your core (abs), which will also help with good posture
  • Using common sense and appropriate protective equipment when engaging in contact sports and other high-risk physical activities
  • Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce strain on your back
  • Not “working through” pain. Taking a break from athletic training or physical activities as soon as you feel back pain

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.