Back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is one of the most common reasons people miss work or go to the doctor. The back supports your posture, protects your spinal cord and plays a major role in how the entire body functions. It’s no wonder this constantly active set of muscles is prone to injury. In order to understand why back pain occurs and how to prevent it, it is important to understand the anatomy of the back first.
Structure of the Back
The muscles of the back are categorized into three groups: intrinsic, superficial and intermediate.
Intrinsic or deep muscles (transversospinales) are those that fuse with the vertebral column, which protects the spinal cord. They extend from the sacrum to the base of the skull and are associated with the movements of the vertebral column and the control of posture.
Superficial muscles (spinotransversales) help with shoulder and neck movement. They originate from the vertebral column and attach to the bones of the shoulder, assisting with movements of the upper limb.
Intermediate muscles (erector spinae) help with movement of the thoracic cage, which protects the heart and lungs. They run from the vertebral column to the ribcage and assist with elevating and depressing the ribs.
Like any other part of the body, the back muscles need to be exercised regularly in order to maintain strength and tone. The deep back and abdominal muscles are not used as often as those used for walking or climbing stairs, so they tend to weaken with age. Physical therapy and back exercises can help reinforce support of the spine and reduce pain.
Pain in the back could be in any of the aforementioned three areas; however, they can be caused by a variety of activities or lack thereof. Some common causes of back pain include:
- Poor posture
- Stationary or strenuous work environment
- Bulging or ruptured disk
- Ligament or muscle strain
Symptoms of back pain range from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning or stabbing sensation. Your spine runs through your neck, down your back, all the way to the top of your buttocks, so back pain can be anywhere along there. It is time to contact your doctor when it is severe and does not improve with rest, spreads down your legs, or is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.
Physical Therapy as Treatment
Physical therapy may be recommended as a treatment after you visit the doctor for back pain, but it can also be used as a preventative measure. Regardless of whether you start physical therapy before or after having issues with your back, the goal of physical therapy is to ease pain and discomfort while also increasing function and decreasing the chance of a future incident.
There are two common types of physical therapy: active and passive. Passive physical therapy can include heat/ice packs, muscle cupping, ultrasounds or electrical stimulation. Active physical therapy may consist of back stretches or strength exercises.
Stronger back muscles may mean less strain on the surrounding muscle and tissue. At South Orange Rehabilitation & Wellness, we can help you reach your strength goals with regular, repetitive movements designed to isolate the particular muscle group in need of strengthening.
Our team takes the time to get to know each of our patients and figure out what’s causing them the most problems. Reach out and schedule an appointment with us today. We can’t wait to meet you!