Running from the base of the skull down to the lower back, the spine is one of the most important structures in the entire human body. Not only does it provide the body with structure and support, but it also protects the precious spinal cord that runs from the base of the brain to the tailbone. The spinal cord is the central bundle of nerves that gathers information from each part of the body and sends it to the brain for processing. It does this through a complex network of nerves that extend throughout the body. If the spinal cord was harmed in any way, it would have an impact on virtually every aspect of our lives, including organ function, sensory perception, and the ability to move at will.
Anatomy of the Spine
The spine consists of 33 vertebrae bones stacked together in the shape of a column that is categorized into five separate subsections:
- The cervical vertebrae, which are the top seven vertebrae located in the neck
- The thoracic vertebrae, which are the next twelve vertebrae located in the middle of the back
- The lumbar vertebrae, which are the five vertebrae located in the lower back
- The sacral vertebrae, which are five small bones fused into a single structure
- The coccyx, also known as the tailbone, consists of several small bones fused together
These vertebrae bones are held together and supported by several muscles, joints, cartilage, discs, and other connective tissues.
Symptoms of Spinal Pain
There are several types of pain that you might experience if you’re suffering from a spinal condition, including
- General pain or discomfort
- Pain that gets worse with movement
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness or tingling
- Limited mobility
Depending on which part of your spine is being affected, you may experience these symptoms in different areas of the body. The most common body parts that are impacted by spinal conditions are the neck, lower back, and mid-back, but you may also have some symptoms that extend into your limbs and extremities.
Common Conditions That Affect the Spine
From top to bottom, there are many conditions and injuries that can cause pain anywhere along the spine. Some of the most conditions include herniated discs, facet joint syndrome, and radiculopathy. Each of these conditions can impact different parts of the spine. They can be caused by general wear and tear over time or by traumatic injuries, such as from a car accident.
Between each vertebrae bone is a rubber-like tissue called an intervertebral disc. The primary purpose of these discs is to act as shock absorbers that protect the spine’s overall structure. When the firm exterior of intervertebral discs wears away, exposing the softer tissue inside of the disc, it is known as a herniated disc. This condition is also sometimes referred to as a bulging disc, slipped disc, or ruptured disc.
Facet Joint Syndrome
Facet joints are the joints that connect the vertebral bones of the spine. They make it possible for the spine to twist and bend, while also serving as a gateway for the nerves to pass through from the spinal cord to the other limbs of the body. The movement of the spine is supported by cartilage and a capsule of fluid, both of which help to prevent friction between the bones of the spine. When the cartilage begins to break down in the facet joints, it can cause inflammation and irritation of the nerves. This condition is known as facet joint syndrome.
When the nerve roots attached to the spinal cord become compressed or pinched, it is known as radiculopathy. This condition can often be caused by other spinal conditions, such as herniated discs, compression fractures, or bone spurs, although it is sometimes associated with underlying chronic conditions such as diabetes. One of the most common characteristics of radiculopathy is the experience of sharp, shooting pains that extend from the spine into the limbs.
When to See a Doctor for Spine Pain
It’s not uncommon for people to dismiss their back or neck pain as simply an inescapable part of life. After all, back and neck pains are very common and are experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives. However, while pain emanating from the spine may go away on its own with rest and at-home care, it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious issue that needs the help of a pain specialist in order to be effectively managed. This is especially true if you’re experiencing persistent pain on a daily basis.
The bottom line is that nobody should live with pain that impacts their daily activities. If this describes your situation, you should consider making an appointment with a pain management specialist as soon as possible. A pain management specialist will not only be able to give the correct diagnosis of what’s causing your spine pain, but also come up with a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique issues.
Get Personalized Care for Spine Conditions and Pain in Hudson County, NJ
If you’re experiencing significant pain in your back or neck and are looking for relief, connect with The Spine & Sports Health Center today. Whether your pain is caused by general wear and tear, physical activity, or an injury, our pain management specialists have the expertise to help get you on the road to recovery. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Hoboken, Jersey City, or Bayonne.