The upper back refers to the area between the base of the neck and the bottom of the ribcage. There are 12 bones within this area that make up the upper back, which spine specialists call the thoracic spine. But breakdowns can happen at any time, resulting in back and neck pain, or overall discomfort. Neck and back pain can make completing everyday tasks more difficult. Ranging from mild to severe, back and neck pain can limit a patient’s movement and physical capabilities. Failing to address neck and back pain can ultimately result in more pain extending throughout the body, and more limitations. Most patients suffering from back and neck pain report a “burning” or “pulling” sensation in one location.
Back and neck pain typically originates from issues found within the thoracic spine. Due to the complexity of the neck and spine, the associated pain may manifest due to several causes including:
In some cases, however, back and neck pain can arise because of spine-related conditions. Luckily a board-certified spine doctor can accurately diagnose patients and recommend effective treatment regimens.
Disc herniation is the most common culprit of back and neck pain. A herniated disc can pain to manifest in the lower back that radiates throughout the entire body. Spinal discs normally act as shock absorbers by providing cushion and spacing between the vertebral bodies. But over time, these discs can degenerate, become injured and bulge out (herniate). As a result, the viscous material from the interior of the disc will ooze into the spinal canal, thereby producing intense pain from irritating sensitive nerves on one side of the body. Signs and symptoms of herniated discs depend on the location in the spine and whether the disc presses against a nerve. The most prevalent symptoms a patient will experience include pain in the buttocks, thigh, and calf, numbness or tingling from the affected nerves, muscle weakness, issues with stability and difficulty lifting and holding items.
Muscle strains or sprains are frequent culprits of a patient’s back and neck pain. Muscle strains and sprains commonly arise from awkwardly jerking or bending the spine, irritation from repetitive activity, or traumatic injuries such as motor vehicle accidents. When injured, these muscles become inflamed, tender and sore, which leads to pain with simple daily activities.
Work factors play an enormous part in developing back and neck pain. Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours each day can throw your body out of alignment. These behaviors can lead to poor posture, which places significant stress on the muscles that run through the spine. When a person slouches, pressure from gravity and the body pushes the spine, discs, and ligaments. This irritation of the joints and ligaments in this region can subsequently produce various degrees of back and neck pain. Luckily, patients can condition muscles to improve back strength, and correct poor posture.
Arthritis of the spine is a type of osteoarthritis, which is the breakdown of bone in weight-bearing joints and disc cartilage. Facet joints help connect vertebrae in the back of the spine and allow body movement. As the body undergoes the normal aging process, the facet joints tend to thicken and harden, which effectively diminishes elasticity. Consequently, the joints in this region will slowly wear out, thereby causing pain and limiting movement.
The degeneration of the disc tissue also compels discs to become more susceptible to rupturing (herniated disc). This development can generate pain in the affected area and along the nerves connected to the spinal cord.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis – or arthritis of the spine – is a degenerative disease that breaks down bone near weight-bearing joints and disc cartilage over time. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain during or after movement, joint stiffness, loss of flexibility, swelling, and bone spurs. Spine specialists refer to osteoarthritis as a “wear and tear” disease because it causes deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and attaches muscle to bone. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Other risk factors that patients should look out for include age, obesity, joint injuries, genetics, bone deformities, and certain metabolic diseases.
Patients can receive an accurate osteoarthritis diagnosis from a board-certified spine surgeon. Doctors will conduct a physical examination, checking for joint tenderness, swelling, redness, and flexibility. Spine experts can obtain a clearer picture of a patient’s condition through diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is irreversible, but treatments can reduce pain and help patients move without experiencing crippling pain. Patients can manage their dull lower back pain from osteoarthritis with over-the-counter medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and surgical intervention when necessary.
The solution to a patient’s back and neck pain depends on the source of the pain, as well as the injury a patient sustained. The first step on the road to recovery involves consulting with a board-certified doctor for effective treatment approaches. Depending on the severity of the back and neck pain, a patient’s spine doctor may recommend physical activity restrictions, healthy lifestyle modifications, over-the-counter medication, and physical therapy. For more severe pain, a board-certified spine surgeon may suggest surgical intervention after exhausting all non-invasive approaches.
Regardless of the source, the team at New Jersey Spine Specialists can treat a patient’s back and neck with precision and compassion. New Jersey Spine Specialist’s doctors hold a successful history in treating countless patients from all over New Jersey for a broad array of back-related issues, including back and neck pain. With convenient locations at Summit’s Overlook Hospital and Montclair’s Mountainside Hospital, New Jersey Spine Specialist’s board-certified spine surgeons provide patients with treatment tailored to individual needs. If you begin to feel back and neck pain, don’t let your quality of life dwindle any longer. Come in for a consultation with New Jersey’s leading spine doctors, and learn about what minimally invasive treatment options may be best for you. To find out more about NJSS can help mitigate neck and back pain, give us a call at (908) 608-9619.
“I am pain free, walking and well on my way to recovery thanks to the help of New Jersey Spine Specialists” —Robert K
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“I am pain free, walking and well on my way to recovery thanks to the help of New Jersey Spine Specialists” –