Back Pain in New Jersey
Living with back pain can make every activity uncomfortable, even sleeping and relaxing. With an office in Totowa and another in Lafayette Township, Performance Rehabilitation is a leading treatment facility for back pain patients in New Jersey.
What is Back Pain?
Back pain is among the most common reasons for doctor visits, missed work days and disability in the world. Most individuals will experience it at least once in their lives.
Fortunately, steps can be taken that can help you relieve or avoid most instances of back pain. If you can’t prevent it, simple at-home remedies and appropriate body mechanics can usually help it heal and keep it functioning properly long-term. In most cases of back pain, surgery is not necessary.
What are the Causes of Back Pain?
Back pain can occur without warning and usually goes away within six weeks (acute). It’s not as common for back pain to last longer than three months (chronic).
Back pain typically occurs without an obvious cause that can be easily identified by your doctor through tests or imaging scans. Conditions that often correlate with back pain can include:
Strained Ligaments or Muscles
Repetitive, heavy lifting or a sudden bad motion can cause trauma to the muscles and the ligaments of the spine. If you’re in poor shape physically, the consistent strain on the back can result in painful spasms.
Ruptured or Bulging Discs
Discs provide cushioning between the vertebrae. The soft tissue in these discs can rupture or bulge outward, pressing against nerves. However, it’s possible to have a bulging disc that isn’t painful. Diseased discs are usually discovered incidentally during unrelated imaging tests.
The lower back can be affected by osteoarthritis. Arthritis of the spine may also result in spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the area surrounding the spinal cord.
Back pain can result from abnormal spine curvatures, such as scoliosis. This may also cause pain, but usually only when scoliosis is severe.
When bones become brittle and porous, the vertebrae of the spine may form compression fractures.
Prolonged sitting at computers, watching television, and commuting cause many to develop poor posture. Our spine acts as a spring against gravity and when that spring loses its ability to disperse gravity evenly through the spine, the stress loads in particular areas of the neck, upper back and lower back. Poor posture is often the cause of many of the herniated disc patients seen by physical therapists.
Either through injury or disease, patients may lose the structural integrity or neuromuscular control that stabilize the spine. Physical therapy can identify these instabilities and help patients to re-train the deep core muscles of the spine to help reduce and eliminate pain.
Upper Back Pain
What is Upper Back Pain?
Upper back pain, while not as prevalent as low back pain, can be just as difficult. Since the discomfort can range from slightly irritating and excruciating, upper back pain can make it virtually impossible to work at a computer. The most common reasons for this problem include joint dysfunction and irritation of the muscles (myofascial pain).
A disc injury in the back, such as a degenerated disc or thoracic disc herniation, may also result in upper back pain, but these issues are uncommon.
What are the Causes of Upper Back Pain?
The upper back, or thoracic spine, is the section of the back that relates to the chest, which encompasses everything below your neck and above your abdomen. Although the neck and low back enable you to move, bend and twist, the upper back is built for stability. Because it lacks as many moving parts, it’s not as likely to develop strain injuries or degenerative disorders, such as bulging discs.
What are the Symptoms of Upper Back Pain?
The symptoms of upper back pain are quite similar to those seen with low back pain. In most situations, these are not serious and rarely indicate a more critical issue. The most common complaints include:
- Dull aching pain
- Pain spanning the shoulder blades
- Stiff or tense muscles
- Pain that worsens during nighttime, particularly when lying down
- Pain into the rib cage
- Painful inspiration
How is Upper Back Pain Diagnosed?
There is great stability and little mobility in the upper back, and this portion of the spinal column isn’t as vulnerable to the development of spinal disorders, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal instability or spinal stenosis. While these disorders can result in pain, it is quite rare for them to occur in the upper back. Due to the stability and low range of motion in the thoracic spine, anatomical causes of upper back pain are often not found, and CT or MRI scans won’t usually show a problem that can be fixed with surgery.
Cervical Spine Pain
What is Cervical Spine Pain?
Your cervical spine neck is made up of seven cervical vertebrae. There is an abundance of nerves and blood vessels within a small region and this can lead to very painful conditions. They include:
- Lymphatic nodes
The vertebrae in the neck and back are designed to protect your sensitive spinal cord nerves that carry electrical messages to different areas of the body from the brain. Each vertebra is a flattened, round bone with a small hole where the spinal cord passes through. The nerves of the spinal cord are damaged by pinching the vertebrae, leading to excruciating pain, tingling and numbness that may radiate into your shoulders and back.
There are various medical conditions or injuries that affect the structures in the neck, causing stiffness, discomfort and restricting your mobility with a condition that physicians refer to as cervicalgia. Some common reasons for pain in the cervical region include the “wry or stiff neck” that occurs when sitting under a cold draft or sleeping in poor position, postural pain that leads to , continual wear and tear from repetitive movement in bad positions, and trauma/injury such as a motor vehicle accident. The damage from any of these incidents can cause vertebrae to rub against each other, leading to additional pressure on nearby tendons, muscles or nerves. The result of injury or disease of the cervical spine is pain, with additional symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the fingers, hands, arms or shoulders.
What are the Causes of Cervical Spine Pain?
There are several reasons why you might have cervical spine pain, including:
- Herniated disc – the bulging of the cushioning material of your spine.
- Immune disorders – such as psoriatic arthritis or Reiter’s syndrome.
- Degenerative conditions – such as ankylosing spondylitis.
- Osteoarthritis – which is a degradation of vertebrae.
- Wear and tear – caused by repetitive movements that damage the vertebrae.
- Biomechanical causes – such as spraining the muscles in the neck.
- Postural – leading to herniated disc or nerve problems.
What are the Symptoms of Cervical Spine Pain?
The symptoms of neck pain typically develop over several weeks due to a ruptured disc or muscular stress, except for traumas such as falls. Here are a few signs of a cervical spine problem:
- Numbness in the shoulders, arms or fingers.
- Radiculopathy that spreads into shoulder, arm, elbow, and/or hand.
- Tender points near damaged vertebrae or referred into the shoulder or scapular region.
- Stiffness in the muscles of the neck.
- Pain or discomfort after using the neck.
Lumber Spine Pain
The lumbar spine is located in the lower back, where the spine curves in toward the stomach (concave). It begins approximately five to six inches beneath the shoulder blades, and it’s connected to the thoracic spine at the top and leads down toward the sacral spine.
What are the Characteristics of the Lumbar Spine?
The lumbar spine has several distinct features:
- The lower the vertebrae are located in the spine, the more weight they bear. The five lumbar vertebrae (L1 to L5) are the largest vertebrae that are not fused together, which allows them to support the upper torso’s weight.
- The lowest two vertebrae of the lumbar spine (L4 to L5 and L5 to S1) bear most of the torso’s weight. This makes them more susceptible to injury and deterioration.
What Causes Lumber Spine Pain?
There are a variety of structures in the lumbar spine capable of triggering pain. Joint problems, bone and muscle problems, bulging or ruptured discs, and irritation of the roots of the nerves leading from the spine can all result in lumbar spine pain. Many conditions involving the lumbar spine are interrelated. For instance, unstable joints can cause discs to degrade, which can pinch nerve roots.
Thoracic Spine Pain
What is Thoracic Spine Pain?
The thoracic spine is the portion of the spine that is located in the neck and attached to the ribs. It consists of 12 vertebrae that feature intervening discs. These discs are made from cartilage, and rest between the vertebrae in all sections of the spine. The vertebral discs serve as cushions and enable flexibility in the spine. However, these discs can become worn with time and age, or even sooner if an injury occurs. As they wear and degrade, the vertebrae sit closer together.
Pain is the most commonly reported symptom of herniated discs in the thoracic spine. It can radiate in a dermatomal pattern, or stay isolated to the upper portion of the back. Thoracic pain can worsen when you sneeze and cough. Patients often describe pain with inspiration and referred to the rib cage.
Radiating pain may be interpreted as originating in the abdomen or chest, and this can result in a very different diagnosis that typically involves evaluation of the gastrointestinal system, heart, lungs and kidneys, as well as musculoskeletal issues that are not related to the spine.
Symptoms of Thoracic Spine Pain
Degeneration of the thoracic discs can result in pain in the upper or middle back. If a disc has a severe level of degradation, bone spurs may develop and hinder the thoracic spine’s mobility. These spurs may also cause the spinal canal to become narrow, pinching the spinal cord as a result. If the spinal cord is severely compressed, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower extremities may result.
Diagnosis of Thoracic Spine Pain
Degeneration of the thoracic discs can be viewed and diagnosed through x-rays, but MRI scans usually provide a better image of how much the degradation has progressed. An MRI will also indicate whether the spinal cord is being compressed due to herniated discs or the development of bone spurs.
How is Back Pain Treated at Performance Rehabilitation?
Physical therapy for the cervical spine may require treatment aimed at reducing a disc herniation utilizing mobilization/manipulation of the cervical and/or thoracic spine, mobilization of nerves, traction, and/or neuromuscular re-education of cervical musculature with stabilization exercises. Our physical therapists are experts in identifying the cause of the patient’s pain and tailoring a specific treatment program that often requires a combination of the described treatment interventions as the patient moves from the acute stage and continues through the healing process. Poor posture is a major cause of cervical pain due to how we live and work in the 21st century. Much of our day is spent sitting at a desk, commuting in a car, and then sitting at home watching television or using the computer. This “micro-gravity” position weakness our core musculature and predisposes us to postural pain and injury. At Performance Rehabilitation, we use the GravityFit whole body exercise system that specifically targets and strengthens the deep “core muscles” that support the body. This treatment system was designed for space research and optimizes core body strength allowing you to feel better, protect you from injury, allow for better movement, and build a powerful foundation that helps athletes to perform better. And if you require cervical surgery, we are knowledgeable and proficient in the latest surgical techniques and provide post-surgical physical therapy. Our therapists work closely with the surgeon to ensure the most optimal outcomes.
Acute and chronic back pain affects almost everyone, but now you can receive effective treatment for this condition. Contact Performance Rehabilitation, located in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey, to schedule a personal evaluation of your back pain.