Your spine is designed to handle normal stretching and compressive forces but excessive or repetitive forces can injure the small joints, causing cartilage damage, ligament tearing, muscle spasm and loss of joint motion. This is known as a spinal joint injury or sprain. Spinal joint injury is similar to an ankle sprain and is accompanied by swelling, stiffness and pain. Spinal joint injury is the most common cause of back and neck pain.
Spinal injuries are commonly seen in three areas of the body:
1. Lower Back Pain
The most common symptoms of a lower back injury are localized pain around the injured spinal joint. The pain may radiate into the buttock or down the leg and may be accompanied by significant spasm. This is commonly known as sciatica.
A bulge or herniation of the spinal discs may also be present and lead to more intense symptoms.
As we age, or after significant wear and tear, the spinal discs may start to degenerate and show arthritic changes. This affects the surrounding muscles, joints and nerves of the back, leading to back pain.
2. Upper Back Pain
This area of the spine is often strained from postural pressures, stress and repetitive lifting and bending. Pain is often felt between the shoulder blades and can creep into the shoulder muscles. Injuries to the ribs can also generate pain in the upper and mid back.
3. Neck Pain
Poor workplace habits, poor sleeping posture, trauma from car accidents and stress can all lead to significant neck pain. The pain can be felt locally in the neck, can travel up to the base of the skull and head, or can radiate into the shoulder muscles and down the arm. The joints of the neck are also susceptible to degeneration and arthritis as we age.
What Causes a Spinal Joint Injury?
There are three ways in which a spinal joint injury can occur:
- A sudden onset of pain occurs after a specific stress or strain, such as improper lifting.
- A more gradual onset of pain and stiffness builds up over time due to repetitive stresses.
- Pain begins after a seemingly innocent movement due to underlying, existing joint weakness.
Treatment of Spinal Injuries:
Medical research has shown that spinal injuries are most effectively treated with spinal mobilization and adjustments, combined with appropriate exercises. Spinal adjustments help restore proper motion to the injured joints and properly timed exercise helps strengthen the damaged muscles that accompany this condition.
With the appropriate treatment the symptoms of spinal injury can often be substantially improved in 2-3 weeks. The patient can expect a large reduction in pain and stiffness, decreased swelling around the spinal joints and decreased muscles tension.
At this point, the focus of the treatment becomes restoring full movement to the injured joint to facilitate complete ligament healing. Without this the joint will remain weak and will be unable to withstand normal forces and will be prone to symptom recurrences. The amount of time needed to accomplish this will vary and depends on the length of time since the initial injury, involvement of the surrounding nerves and the presence of degeneration or arthritis.
There are numerous types of headaches but the most common ones are tension and migraine headaches. Although there are various triggers for these types of headaches, one common factor is injury or irritation of the spinal joints and muscle of the neck. The neck contains many of the nerves that supply the blood vessels and muscles of the head, and irritation of these joints can often result in headache.
The neck is commonly irritated or injured as a result of postural strain, stress, or direct trauma such as falls or car accidents. This often results in stiff and inflamed joints in the neck, muscle spasm in the muscles surrounding these joints, and irritation of the nerves that travel to the head.
Chiropractic treatment is known to be effective in improving the health of these injured neck structures, often resulting is significant reduction in headache intensity and frequency.