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What’s Causing Your Back Pain?

January 15, 2020

Do you have back pain? Is your back keeping you from doing everyday things that you enjoy doing?

If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, the numbers related to back pain are pretty staggering:

  • Around 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time. 
  • Half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. 
  • Back pain is the most common reason for a visit to the doctor’s office. 
  • Around 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives.

If you’re experiencing back pain, particularly if it’s persistent, you may wonder where it came from in the first place.

Read on as Casey Elson, DPT, physical therapist at Sports Plus Alamo, offers some insight on the topic.

Examining the Causes of Back Pain
When you look at the facts, most cases of back pain  are mechanical in nature. So, what does that mean? It means the back pain is not caused by a serious underlying medical condition, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer.

Where else can the pain come from? Mechanically, there are four main options. Back pain can emanate from:

  • Vertebrae, which are bones that protect your spinal cord. They can be forced or locked out of their proper positions.
  • Ligaments and muscles, which are supportive tissues that can be stretched, torn, or weakened.
  • Discs, which are shock absorbers that can bulge, rupture, or wear down.
  • Nerves, which carry the body’s messages and can get stretched, pinched, or irritated.

What causes the majority of back pain? That answer depends on the nature of the back pain and its symptoms. Research shows that disc-related issues are the predominant source of back pain that’s limited to the back, while a compressed nerve root is the predominant source of back pain that extends into the leg. 

How the Cause of Back Pain Is Determined
Robin McKenzie, a New Zealand physical therapist, stumbled upon an amazing clinical phenomenon back in the 1950s, which totally revolutionized the way back pain is treated and managed around the world. 

MDT—or the McKenzie Method—looks at the lumbar spine mechanically and attempts to centralize the pain or move the pain from a more distal location to the central low back.

The McKenzie procedure for assessing patients with low back pain has been found to be more accurate than an MRI in differentiating disc pain from non-disc pain, as well as determining which patients can see improvement and pain relief without surgery. 

With the McKenzie mechanical assessment procedure, the therapist is looking for a directional preference or a direction that centralizes or gets rid of your pain. MDT uses a disc model for simpler explanation of what is going on.

Referred or radiating leg pain is caused by displaced disc material mechanically simulating the pain sensitive nerve root. Therapists then perform repeated end range loading of the spine—or in layman’s terms, repeated movements—to return the displaced nuclear material, thus centralizing and reducing the pain.   

If You Have Back Pain…
You probably need a mechanical exam. During this exam, a therapist will determine your mechanical and symptomatic baselines and determine if you have a directional preference for movement. This allows you to “fix yourself” and prevent reoccurrence of future back problems. 

Sports Plus Rehab Centers offer COMPREHENSIVE REHABILITATION SERVICES in convenient locations across west Tennessee. To learn more, call (731) 541-7060.