The human back is a feat of biological engineering.
More than 33 vertebrae form the column that runs from the skull to tailbone and between each is a cushiony disk, all held together by a web of ligaments and muscles. With all those moving parts, plenty can go wrong.
“Back pain is incredibly common, especially as we age,” said Jeffrey B. Wood, M.D., board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon with the Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center at Sugar Land. “Fortunately, we can treat most cases of back pain without surgery.”
Below are some of the most common causes of back pain:
• Heavy lifting or improper sports or exercise techniques. Repeated lifting or simply an awkward movement could cause a muscle or ligament strain.
• Bad posture. Sit at a desk all day? If you’re hunched over papers or using a chair with little support, your back bears the brunt of it.
• Herniated disk. The vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by disks between each bone. When the soft material inside bulges or ruptures, it can cause pain by pressing on a nerve.
• Scoliosis. Adults experience pain from scoliosis (a sideways curve in the spine) when an existing curve worsens with age or a new curve develops.
• Arthritis. In its most common form, osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down around joints, making movement painful.
• Osteoporosis. Thinning of the bones, predisposes a person to fractures. Compression fractures may cause pain when bones become brittle and porous.
Minor back problems — primarily those associated with strains or spasms — can be successfully treated at home with a combination of hot and cold compresses, rest and anti-inflammatory medications.
“Although you may be tempted to spend a few days recuperating in bed, movement is actually better for your pain,” Wood said. “Try to keep up with your regular activities.”
If pain is debilitating, a spine specialist can perform an exam to help determine the source of discomfort and prescribe a treatment plan that may include medications, physical therapy or injections to relieve pain. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
“At our neuroscience and spine center, our specialists work together to get you back to a productive life,” Wood said.
Houston Methodist Neuroscience & Spine Center at Sugar Land offers expedited appointments, including second opinions, with our renowned specialists.
To schedule an appointment, visit houstonmethodist.org/neuro-sl and fill out the online form or call 281-274-7979.
Back and neck pain seminar
Drs. Jeffrey B. Wood and Christian Pecorra will discuss causes, latest treatment options, and prevention on Wednesday, April 17, at 6 p.m. in the Brazos Pavilion Conference Center. Registration is required. For more information, visit events.houstonmethodist.org/backpain-sl or call 281-274-7500.