Causes for Common Back Injuries
Experiencing a back injury can significantly disrupt your life. Pain in your back can affect the quality of your sleep and prevent you from doing everyday activities. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit healthcare providers and miss days at work.
Most back injuries affect the lower back, or lumbar region. Falls, car accidents, lifting heavy objects, working out and playing sports are common causes of injury and can lead to acute back pain. These injuries include:
- Herniated disc, or displaced disc, which happens when a disc that cushions the vertebrae in your back becomes weakened and puts stress on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves
- Sprains and strains
- Fractured vertebrae
- Slipped vertebrae
- Vertebral compression fracture, which occurs when the bones in the spine collapse and compress
In addition to injury, other causes for back pain include:
- Muscle spasms, which occur when your muscles become very tense
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots
- Infections of the spine or kidneys
- Problems with the gallbladder or pancreas
Other risk factors can also increase your chances of developing chronic back pain. Gaining weight rapidly or being obese can put stress on your back and cause pain, and lack of physical activity can lead to weak back and abdominal muscles that don’t give the spine the support it needs. Smoking, depression and loss of bone strength that comes with age can also cause back pain.
Diagnosing Back Pain
How do you know if your back pain is serious? American Health Imaging uses advanced imaging tools to diagnose back pain. These include:
- Spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A spinal MRI creates a detailed picture of the bones in your back, as well as muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
- Vertebral motion analysis (VMA): A VMA creates a video X-ray of your spine in motion. This breakthrough technology allows the radiologist to watch the movement of your spine in real time and zero in on the source of pain.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: People who are unable to have an MRI or a VMA can have a CT scan to help diagnose their back pain.
How Are Back Injuries Treated?
Often, back pain resolves within a few days or weeks with rest, ice or heat, and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. However, more serious back injuries, as well as chronic pain, might require additional treatment.
If tests reveal a serious back injury or the pain does not resolve with self-care, your physician will recommend a treatment plan. This might include:
- Prescription pain medication, such as opioids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physical therapy and at-home exercises
- Spinal manipulation and mobilization
- Spinal steroid injections
- To reduce your risk for back pain, maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise and be cautious when doing any heavy lifting.
Vertebral Motion Analysis (VMA) is available at American Health Imaging’s San Antonio and Atlanta locations. Contact us for more information.