How to Tell If Your Back Pain Is Muscle or Disc Related

Bottom Line:

You’ve felt back pain. What’s causing it, and how can you tell if your back pain is muscle or disc related? Well, there are several common causes of back pain, and the first step on your road to recovery is identifying what type of back issue you’re dealing with.

Why it Matters:

Identifying the source of your pain is critical to developing the right plan of care. Research has found that while imaging can be helpful, it isn’t required every time you experience back pain. Starting with a thorough history and physical examination, our team will pinpoint your pain generator, identify the root cause, and create a complete plan of action to get you feeling better as quickly as possible.

A couple of the most common pain generators in the spine are:

  • Muscle Strain – Muscle strains don’t tend to occur because of a single traumatic occurrence. Instead, they usually happen due to repetitive physical stress and overuse.
  • Herniated Discs – Between each of the vertebrae of your spine, you have discs. A herniated disc is when the inside (the nucleus) of the disc pushes through the outside (the annulus fibrosus) of the disc wall. The pain you feel from a herniated disc generally comes from the disc irritating or compressing a nearby spinal nerve.
  • Facet joints- These are the joints connecting each of your vertebrae. Other names for facet joints include zygapophyseal or apophyseal joints Like any other joint in your body, each facet joints’ job is to promote healthy movement and along with the intervertebral disc provide stability for each motion segment. The disc functions as a spacer and to support motion between the vertebral bodies. This forms a tripod relationship between the intervertebral disc and the facet joint. Degeneration or damage to one affects the other. The effects of aging and/or traumatic injury can damage the facet joints and is the leading cause of back pain known as facet joint syndrome

Next Steps:

Dealing with back pain can be scary. But don’t stress! Most back pain can be taken care of without drugs or surgery. If you’re unsure of the diagnosis or cause of your pain, reach out to our practice today. We’ll be happy to help guide you on the best course of treatment to help you feel better quickly!

Science Source:

  • Low Back Pain Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2020
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