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Lower back pain can sometimes be traced back to a degenerative disc problem in the spinal column. In order to understand why the pain happens it’s first important to understand how the spinal column is formed. The spinal column is a vertical row of small round bones that are interconnected or articulated so that the bone can bend. Through the center of the these round bones runs the spinal cord which is a bundle of nerves that travels from the base of the brain out to the rest of the body. The spinal column protects the cord and gives the body flexibility and mobility.
Between each of the round bones, called vertebrae, are soft discs. These discs are there to cushion the motion between the bones so there isn’t bone rubbing on bone during motion.
Sedentary Lifestyles Lead To Back Pain
The causes of this degeneration can be many, and we will talk about them and how you can treat your pain in future posts.
But one of the primary causes is poor posture, particularly sitting on a chair or couch in a slouching manner. Let’s face it. Our culture has become sedentary. Many of us work in offices or sit in chairs all day, go home and sit on the couch while watching TV or reading the paper or book, then get on our computers for more hours. A hundred years ago we were basically an agrarian society, fast becoming a manufacturing one. People didn’t sit down all day. They didn’t sit in front of the TV or Computer either. Radio was just starting out as the home entertainment medium.
It’s interesting to note that cultures that are not as advanced as ours, the Far East for example, do not experience much back pain at all. People are accustomed to sitting on mats in a yoga-like position. This position is much easier on the back. Yoga, by the way, is often rec ommended to persons suffering from back pain. But we’ll have another post on that as well.
Degenerative Spinal Changes
Degenerative changes to the spinal column are common and the intervertebral discs are one structure that is prone to those changes. They are associated with wear and tear, aging and misuse such as smoking. Long before any changes might be evident on imaging studies there are biochemical and structural changes that may seem to be similar to osteoarthritis or lumbar spinal stenosis.
30% od Adults 60+ Have Chronic Back Pain
The term degenerative disc disease refers to the changes to the discs which causes low back pain. But, despite the rather dramatic label, this condition is very common among individuals. It is estimated that approximately 30% of 30 to 50 year old people will have some degree of degeneration of the disc space. And, after a person reaches age 60 this finding is expected.
Although the description of degenerative disc disease appears to be straightforward there is some degree of disagreement in the medical community about the description and the implications, especially when x-ray findings indicate changes in a young adult. But, while there is some debate about the disease itself it is known how the changes in the spine cause pain.
Generally the pain that is associated with degenerative disc disease and low back pain are thought to stem from two different factors. These factors are the inflammation from the changes to the disc and abnormal micromotion instability.
When inflammation occurs in the body there is release of chemicals that irritates the muscles which results in spasms around the area. If one of the out rings of the disc is damaged or worn it isn’t as effective in resisting motion in the spine. This micromotion instability isn’t associated with gross instability such as a slipped disc but still causes pain or discomfort in the area.
Both the micromotion instability and the inflammation cause muscle spasms in the lower back. As the body attempts to stabilize the lower back the muscles spasm further creating more pain. This cycle is a reflex of the body and although it isn’t necessary to protect the nerve roots, it can also be painful and result in an individual who appears crooked from one area of the back to the next as the muscle spasms pull the back out of alignment.
Treatment for this problem may include exercises which strengthen the muscles in the lower back such as those demonstrated in the video above. Regardless, you should consult a specialist for an assessment of your specific problem and the appropriate treatment options.
Published by Stenosis Advisor
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