The back bears the major brunt of stress caused by our mobility. Back injuries occur as a result of damage, wear or trauma to the bones, muscles or other tissues of the back. Common back injuries include sprains and strains, herniated disks and fractured vertebrae. Sports activities and motor vehicle accidents, apart from lifting heavy weights and chronic wrong posture, are common causes of back injuries.
Back Sprains and Strains:
A sprain is the result of overstretching or tearing of parts of a ligament. It is caused due to twisting or pulling forces on a muscle or a tendon and can also be caused by a single instance of improper lifting or by overstressing the back muscles.
Strains are injuries to either a muscle or tendon caused from a fall or a sudden twist or blow to the body that forces a joint out of its normal position.
The treatment for strains and sprains is similar, and is carried out in 2 phases. The first phase includes reduction of pain and spasms by rest and using ice packs along with compression during first 24-48 hours after injury. After the first 24-48 hours, you can return to your normal activities as much as tolerable. Continued bed rest or immobility lengthens the symptoms and delays recovery. If symptoms continue for more than 2 weeks, more rigorous treatment may be needed. Contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hayden if symptoms continue.
A herniated or prolapsed intervertebral disc is a disc that ruptures and gives way to the jelly-like center; this jelly acts like a cushion for the vertebrae and when it leaks out, it irritates the nearby nerves. Symptoms of the herniated disc vary depending upon the site and severity of prolapse. It can lead to simple back pain or troublesome sciatica.
Initial treatment typically consists of complete bed rest, along with pain-killers and NSAIDs and physical therapy. Epidural corticosteroid injections provide short term improvement in sciatica patients. Surgery may useful in those with a herniated disc that is causing significant nerve pain radiating into the leg, significant leg weakness, bladder problems, or loss of bowel control. A discectomy, the partial removal of a disc that is causing leg pain, can provide pain relief sooner than non-surgical treatments.
Vertebral fractures are generally associated with major trauma and can cause spinal cord damage that may lead to permanent neural deficits. Minor fractures or those with column stability are treated without surgery. The aim of operative treatment is decompression of the spinal cord canal and stabilization of the disrupted vertebral column. The 4 basic types of stabilization procedures are
- Posterior lumbar interspinous fusion: Least-invasive method; involves the use of screws to achieve stability and promote fusion.
- Posterior rods: Effective in stabilizing multiple fractures or unstable fractures
- Z-plate anterior thoracolumbar plating system: Has been used for the treatment of burst fractures
Penned by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD