Generally speaking, back pain is caused by an injury, poor posture or degenerative changes in the spine. A fall or automobile accident can damage bones in the spine or cause muscle strains; severe trauma can even tear muscles, tendons or ligaments. Improper lifting or bending, as well as sitting or standing in a slouched position can -- over time -- stress the spine and cause pain. As people age, the spine can degenerate from wear and tear, for example, poor posture or improper lifting techniques. Conditions like arthritis can also cause back pain.
The spine is a marvel of flexibility and complexity. Between each of the 33 spinal bones (vertebrae) are spongy cushions of thick cartilage; these are the spine's shock absorbers. Each vertebra has a hole through the center to allow passage of the spinal cord, and the nerves that affect the body run from the spinal cord along the spine. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons support and stabilize the spine and allow it to bend, straighten, or rotate. This very flexibility makes it susceptible to injury if muscles are weak or there is dysfunction in any of the spinal structures.
Back pain is often the result of a spinal misalignment. Vertebrae can slide out of position, which puts stress on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As the patient's posture changes in response to the misalignment, muscles may go into spasm. A chiropractic adjustment corrects the misalignment, allowing the muscles and spine to relax into a normal position. Chiropractors can also treat tense muscles directly or teach exercises to help strengthen and stretch muscles.
If the back pain is of short duration, a single treatment may bring relief. Some patients may deal with the pain for some time before they see a chiropractor. They have usually changed their gait or posture in response to the pain. As the stress on the back strains the muscles, they become shortened and tense. In these cases, several treatments may be necessary before the back stabilizes.
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