We've all experienced back problems from time to time -- lower back pain or strain of the neck. In fact, problems from back pain are among the most common physical complaints of American adults and are a leading cause of lost job time -- to say nothing of the time and money spent in search of relief.
The spinal column is an extraordinary mechanism. It keeps us stable enough to stand upright but flexible enough for movement. The backbone, or spine, is actually a stack of 24 individual bones called vertebrae.
A healthy spine is S-shaped when viewed from the side. It curves back at the shoulders and inward at the neck and small of the back. It's the body's main structural support. It also houses and protects the spinal cord, the intricate network of nerves that runs through the vertebrae to transmit feeling and control movement throughout the entire body.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain ranks high on the list of self-inflicted ailments. Most of our back troubles happen because of bad habits, generally developed over a long period of time. These bad back habits include:
Overexertion in work and play
Sitting incorrectly at the desk or at the steering wheel
Pushing, pulling, and lifting things carelessly
Sometimes, the effects are immediate, but in many cases back problems develop over time. One of the more common types of back pain comes from straining the bands of muscles surrounding the spine. Although such strains can occur anywhere along the spine, they happen most often in the curve of the lower back. The next most common place is at the base of the neck.
Sometimes backaches occur for no apparent reason. This is called nonspecific backache. It may develop from weakened muscles that cannot handle everyday walking, bending, and stretching. In other cases, back pain may come from an injury involving pulling or twisting or some kind of overuse or repetitive damage.