The Causes of Back and Neck Pain

When dealing with back and neck pain, it is important to have your pain

evaluated by a professional. Simply dismissing back or neck pain as

typical and unimportant can be a very harmful mistake.

Overuse or under use of the back muscles is by far the most common

cause of back pain that manifests as tightening or spasm of the muscles

that connect to the spine. Inflammation and swelling often occur in the

joints and ligaments, especially in the cervical and lumbar regions, as

people age.

Many conditions can cause back and neck pain, ranging from injury to

infection to simply twisting the wrong way. Traumatic injuries such as

those sustained in an automobile accident or other type of accidents can damage muscles, joints, ligaments, and


A herniated disc occurs when the nuclear pulposus, the inner material

of the disc, pushes through a tear in the annulus fibrosis, the outer

material of the disc causing nerve root compression. The cervical and

lumbar regions of the spine have the most mobility and the discs there

are more likely to wear down or be injured. Ninety percent of disc

herniations occur in the lower two lumbar vertebrae.

Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal, can cause spinal

cord irritation and injury. Conditions that cause spinal stenosis include

infection, tumors, trauma, herniated disc, arthritis, thickening of

ligaments, growth of bone spurs, and disc degeneration. Spinal stenosis

most commonly occurs in older individuals as a result of vertebral


A pinched

nerve, or radiculopathy, occurs when something rubs or presses against a

nerve, creating irritation or inflammation. Radiculopathy can result

from a herniated disc, bone spur, tumor growing into the nerves, and

vertebral fracture, and many other conditions.

Sciatica is a certain type of radiculopathy that involves inflammation

of the sciatic nerve. Pain is experienced along the large sciatic

nerve, from the lower back down through the buttocks and along the back of

the leg.

A spinal tumor that originates in the spine (primary tumor) or spreads

to the spine from another part of the body (metastatic tumor) can

compress the spine or nerve roots and cause significant pain.

Infections of the vertebrae (e.g., vertebral osteomyelitis), the discs,

the meninges (e.g., spinal meningitis), or the cerebrospinal fluid can

compress the spinal cord and result in serious neurological

deterioration, if it is not diagnosed and treated immediately.

Facet joints allow movement of the spine. The facet joints are formed

by two adjacent vertebra and direct or guide movement of the spine.

As facet joints degenerate, they may not align correctly, and the

cartilage and fluid that lubricates the joints may deteriorate. Bone then

rubs against bone, which can be very painful.

These are just a few of the conditions that can be responsible for back

and neck pain. Thankfully, most cases of back and neck pains are

related to mechanical causes and can be readily addressed by a trained

chiropractor. The point is, however, pain is a warning signal that should

not be ignored. The best place to have your back and neck pain

evaluated is with a chiropractor.

My chiropractic office in San Diego California is like many across the

United States. While chiropractic care helps many different

conditions, it is often viewed as treatment for back pain and neck pain.