Orthopedic Problems: Back Pain
Misalignment and Fixation
The two most common mechanical problems that cause back pain are misalignment and fixation. A misalignment can occur as a result of an injury, such as slipping or falling. If one vertebra moves out of its normal position, even just a little, it can create pain. Almost everyone at one time or another has experienced an injury or trauma, and can relate to the pain associated with misalignment.
It is equally important to understand and recognize that when two or more vertebrae get stuck together and stiffen up, or fixate, this interferes with the normal biomechanics (or movement) of the spine. Remember that each individual vertebra is ideally designed to move freely and independently of each other. This distributes the load and leverage of normal motion between all five lumbar vertebrae. The two main causes of fixation of vertebral joints are trauma, or remaining in a static position for prolonged periods of time.
Take, for example, jamming a finger when catching a baseball. Your finger is jammed or strained, not broken, but hurts, gets stiffed and swollen. Now try to bend that finger. It may bend at one joint; however, the rest of the joints remain fixated or immobile.
The same principle apply to the spine. When the back is traumatized or injured, there are four joints or facets on each vertebrae in the low back or lumbar spine, and you would find that is 20 joints to sprain and fixate. If three vertebrae are fixated above and below, that puts the sprain or load of the entire body on just one level while you’re bending, lifting or twisting. The muscles and little ligaments that hold that level together just cannot take that type of load, so they strain, sprain or tear.
Micro tears of the ligaments that hold the spine together eventually heal, but they do with scar tissue that is not flexible; therefore, next time you lift something heavy, the area affected will give away.
To visualize a sprain or a strain, picture a nylon rope being pulled to its maximum tensile strength. Just before it breaks, it begins to fray. Ligaments and muscles under stress loads frey also. Keep in mind that muscles strain and ligaments sprain. The good things is that you will eventually heal, but your pain can last for up to six to eight weeks, or even more.
This is stiffness created by being in one position for prolonged periods of time. Take your finger for example. If you hold it back for one hour while you drive or sit a computer and the you let it go, it becomes stiff. Or lets say we put a healthy, uninjured elbow in a cast for four weeks. Once we take the cast off, the elbow will be locked and fixated, even though there was not an injury.
The same thing can happen to your back. If you sit for prolonged periods of time without moving, your spine stiffens up and fixates. When you bend over to pick up a piece of paper after eight hours of sitting, you blow your back out. Remember, the leverage on that one poor vertebrae that is doing all the moving just cannot take the type of stress, so the muscles and ligaments that surround and support it sprain, strain or tear.
We hope you find this information valuable and learn how to avoid this issues. However, if you find yourself with back pain, at our Rehabilitation Center in Naples, Florida, we count with occupational and physical therapists that can help you overcome your current state. Feel free to contact us if you need further assistance.
Orthopedic Corner | Leon Mead MD Orthopedic Doctor | 730 Goodlette Road North, Suite 201 Naples Florida 34102 | Phone: (239) 262-1119