Back Pain Symptoms
Ways of categorizing and describing the types of sensations associated with back pain are nearly as numerous as the qualified experts who assert them. Perhaps the most useful way to understand back and neck pain sensations is to look at them in light of what types of problems they signal, and any immediate medical attention they may require.
Symptoms that Require Immediate Medical Attention>
Sensations that indicate the necessity of immediate medical attention often include more signs or symptoms than the back pain itself, Here is a partial list of symptoms to pay attention to and to respect:
- Numbness in the low back or pelvic area
- Shooting pain down the leg
- Weakness in the legs or very unsteady balance when standing or walking 8
- Problems with altered sensation in the pelvis and legs, especially if they progress 8
- Problems with bowel and bladder retention. 8
- Suspected neck injury
Conditions that could require immediate attention include:
- Cauda Equina Syndrome
- Persistent pain
- Broken neck or spinal cord injury --(DOES require immediate emergency medical attention).
The spine is a bony column comprised of a series of small interlocking bones with incrementally located holes. This bony column provides a housing for the very sensitive structure known as the spinal cord. The spinal cord, part of the CNS, carries signals and messages of all kinds to and from the brain. These signals and messages include, but are certainly not limited to, sensations of pain, awareness of body position and sensations of heat, cold and pressure, as well as signals to move such as running, bending, threading a needle, blinking the eyes and many more motions.
The spinal cord branches off into structures known as nerves, and the nerves exit out of the incrementally located holes on the sides. Because the bones interlock at their joints, combined with the fact that the spinal structure is a moveable one, sometimes the vertebrae will move out of their centered alignment with respect to one another. This may cause the exiting nerves to be touched or pressured by the bone. Because the nerves take messages to other parts of the body, the pressures caused by the touching will cause sensations to travel down these fibers.
Another way nerve involvement can happen is when an intervertebral disk bulges or herniates. The nucleous pulposus can then escape out the protective layer of the annulous fibrosis. Once it does, there is no telling where it will land. Sometimes it lands in such a way as to not bother a nerve at all; however, often enough it will land on a nerve and cause pain.
MusculoskeletalUnlike pain from nerve involvement, pain from musculoskeletal sources generally does not refer to other sites in the body. One exception to this is myofascial pain, which is also known as trigger points. Back pain from musculoskeletal sources can be due to a variety of factors including:
Infections and tumors
Although rare in comparison with other back conditions, the presence of infection and tumors may cause back and/or neck pain. For example, one symptom of meningitis is a stiff neck. Cauda Equina(mentioned above) is sometimes caused by a tumor or infection located at the cauda equine area of the spinal cord. These are just two examples; if you have any of the sensations listed above in the Symptoms that Require Immediate Medical Attention section, the best course of action is to seek immediate medical attention.
Back pain sensations found in the above mentioned categories will overlap. For example, referred pain may be present in nerve involvement since nerves are the conduit of information from one place in the body to another. Referred pain may also be present in cases of trigger points, a problem of the musculoskeletal system. This listing is meant to serve as a general, introductory guide only.
Back Pain, Presenting
Back pain can also be categorized by its presentational aspects. Pain can be severe or mild. It can come on suddenly or grow gradually over time; it can appear after an incident such as car accidents or sports trauma, or it can come on for no apparent reason as is sometimes the case with chronic pain conditions. As covered above, pain can be referred, as in cases of radiculopathy or it can be localized, for example in cases of tight muscles.