Common Symptoms & What They Typically Mean

Back Pain

Pain is your body’s natural response to injury. While most people have transient pain from time to time which resolves on its own, it’s important to recognize that some conditions do require evaluation by a spine physician. Your spine works to carry the weight of your body and it’s no surprise that from time to time you may injure it doing things which seem relatively harmless.

What’s Causing My Back Pain?

The most common cause of back pain tends to be from strained muscles. The pain tends to be most severe right after the injury, but can gradually worsen over the first few hours. Strain in your back muscles is most often caused by asking too much of them (ie. Lifting a heavy item) or asking them to work for too long (ie. moving boxes all day long at work). Common triggers for this type of injury are listed below:

  • Improper lifting technique
  • Sudden, strenuous physical effort
  • Accident or fall
  • Poor posture
  • Carrying a heavy purse, briefcase or backpack
  • Stress

Other causes for back pain, besides the common muscle strain include:

  • Degenerative disc disease or Arthritis
  • Disc rupture or herniation
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Slipped vertebrae
  • Scoliosis
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • Compression factures

When Should I See My Doctor?

Most of the time, injuries such as back strain will resolve within a few weeks with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Warning signs which should prompt a visit to the doctor include:

  • Pain which is getting worse not better
  • Pain so severe that you are unable to walk or go about your activities of daily living
  • Accompanying weakness, numbness or tingling.
  • Pain which occurs after a fall or accident
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • You have a history of osteoporosis or compression fracture. For more information on osteoporosis, click here to view “5 Signs Your Osteoprosis May Be Worse Than You Thought.”
  • Pain which has not improved after 4-6 weeks of conservative treatment.

Neck Pain

Pain is your body’s natural response to injury. While most people have transient pain from time to time which resolves on its own, it’s important to recognize that some conditions do require evaluation by a spine physician. Your neck works to carry the weight of your head and it’s no surprise that from time to time you may injure it doing things which seem relatively harmless.
What’s Causing My Neck Pain?

The most common cause of neck pain tends to be from strained muscles. The pain tends to be most severe right after the injury, but can gradually worsen over the first few hours. Strain in your neck muscles is most often caused by asking too much of them (ie. Lifting a heavy item) or asking them to work for too long (ie. Leaning over a computer all day long). Common triggers for this type of injury are listed below:

  • Improper lifting technique
  • Sudden, strenuous physical effort
  • Accident or fall
  • Poor posture
  • Carrying a heavy purse, briefcase or backpack
  • Stress

Other causes for neck pain, besides the common muscle strain include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Arthritis
  • Disc rupture or herniation
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Slipped vertebrae
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • Fractures

There are 4 common causes of neck pain which are within your power to change right now. Click the link below to read the full article.

4 Common Causes of Neck Pain

When Should I See My Doctor?

Most of the time, injuries such as neck strain will resolve within a few weeks with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Warning signs which should prompt a visit to the doctor include:

  • Pain which is getting worse not better
  • Pain so severe that you are unable to walk or go about your activities of daily living
  • Accompanying arm or leg weakness, numbness or tingling.
  • Pain which occurs after a fall or accident
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Pain which has not improved after 4-6 weeks of conservative treatment.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor for an appointment so that you can be given a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Hip, Buttock & Leg Pain

Conditions in your lumbar spine, or low back, can be a common source of hip, buttock and leg pain. The nerves to your hips, buttock and legs pass through your lumbar spine, and can be affected by a variety of different conditions arising in your low back. Pain from a pinched nerve in your low back may be felt in your buttock and legs. This is called referred pain and is a result of your body getting the origin of the pain signals mixed up. Nerve fibers transmit signals from your legs to your brain via your spinal cord. When a nerve is compressed, your body interprets the signal as arising from the portion of your leg that the nerve is responsible for. You may experience muscle weakness, numbness, and/or tingling which accompany the pain as well. Pain that radiates down from the low back into your legs is called radiculopathy (often called sciatica) and has a variety of causes, the most common of which are listed below:

  • Rupture, Herniated or Slipped Disc – As discussed in the spine anatomy section, the discs are located between the bones of your spine and act as shock absorbers. Over time they can degenerate which predisposes them to injury. Imagine the disc as a jelly donut, composed of a hard shell (the annulus fibrosis) surrounding a soft jelly (called the nucleus pulposus). Any weakness in the hard, outer shell can allow the soft jelly inside to escape and put pressure on your nerves. See this on video on “How Do You Know a Disc Has Ruptured” for more details: How Do You Know A Disc Has Ruptured Video
  • Disc Degeneration – As discs wear out, they tend to flatten down and bulge out like a tire that loses air. This disc bulge in combination with bone spurs in your spine may cause nerve compression which results in hip, buttock and leg pain, numbness and/or weakness.
  • Spinal Stenosis – This is a condition which results in narrowing of your spinal canal to a point where your nerve roots start to become affected. The narrowing can be caused by a variety of structures include bone and ligament.

Shoulder, Arm & Hand Pain

Conditions in your cervical spine, or neck, can be a common source of shoulder, arm & hand pain. The nerves to your shoulder, arms and hands pass through your cervical spine, and can be affected by a variety of different conditions. Pain from a pinched nerve in your neck may be felt in the area around your shoulder blades, arms and hands. This is called referred pain and is a result of your body getting the origin of the pain signals mixed up. Nerve fibers transmit signals from your arms to your brain via your spinal cord. When a nerve is compressed, your body interprets the signal as arising from the portion of your arm that the nerve is responsible for. You may experience muscle weakness, numbness, and/or tingling which accompany the pain as well. Pain that radiates down from the neck into your arm is called radiculopathy and has a variety of causes, the most common of which are listed below:

  • Rupture, Herniated or Slipped Disc – As discussed in the spine anatomy section, the discs are located between the bones of your spine and act as shock absorbers. Over time they can degenerate which predisposes them to injury. Imagine the disc as a jelly donut, composed of a hard shell (the annulus fibrosis) surrounding a soft jelly (called the nucleus pulposus). Any weakness in the hard, outer shell can allow the soft jelly inside to escape and put pressure on your nerves. See this on video on “How Do You Know a Disc Has Ruptured” for more details:http://discmdgroup.com/know-disc-ruptured/
  • Disc Degeneration – As discs wear out, they tend to flatten down and bulge out like a tire that loses air. This disc bulge in combination with bone spurs in your spine may cause nerve compression which results in shoulder, arm & hand pain, numbness and/or weakness.
  • Spinal Stenosis – This is a condition which results in narrowing of your spinal canal to a point where your spinal cord start to become affected. The narrowing can be caused by a variety of structures include bone, disc and ligament. Spinal stenosis in your cervical spine can cause a variety of other symptoms include gait imbalance, difficulty coordinating your hands (ie. Difficulty buttoning your shirt), and bowel and bladder incontinence.