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If you’ve ever experienced a back injury, then you know its debilitating impact on your physical health and quality of life. Everyday movements like bending, lifting, and twisting can feel like a task. With that said, it’s imperative that we stay on top of our back health. Sadly, we often take our backs for granted and only ever care to pay attention when we must deal with some sort of back injury. As our physical therapist in Creve Coeur, Mo, can attest, back injuries, especially to the lower back, are very common. They can result from sports injuries, work around the house, sudden jolts such as a car accident, a fall, lifting heavy objects, and more. The most common back injuries include:

Sprains and strains

Sprains occur when you stretch or tear a ligament, the flat bands of tissue connecting the bones at a joint. A sprain can result from falling, a wrenching twist, or a hard impact. It can be especially painful if you sprain your lower back. Strains, on the other hand, are injuries affecting the tendons – the elastic tissues connecting muscle to bone. They are common athletic injuries. Signs indicating that you might have a strain include pain, swelling, muscle spasms, and muscle movement difficulties. For both conditions, you can relieve pain and inflammation and promote healing by first resting the injured area – avoid moving your back as much as possible. You should also apply ice packs, wrap the area with an elastic compression bandage, and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. If deemed necessary, treatment might also include exercise and physical therapy.

Herniated disks

The average adult has about 26 vertebrae (backbones of the spine), each separated by a disc. The discs are usually filled with a jelly-like substance (nucleus) encased in a tougher, rubbery exterior (annulus). A herniated disk occurs when some of the nucleus pushes out through a tear in the annulus into the spinal canal. This can cause irritation to the nearby nerves, resulting in pain, weakness, and even numbness. Herniated disks can occur in any part of the spine, but they are more common in the lower back. Regarding diagnosis, your physician will first perform a physical exam and imaging tests to establish whether you indeed have a herniated disk. Treatment often involves rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Fractured vertebrae

A vertebral fracture occurs when there is a dislocation or break in the backbone. It can occur anywhere along the spine, usually due to injury or trauma from car accidents, sports injuries, or falls. Like any injury, vertebral injuries range in severity. A simple compression fracture occurs when the bone collapses upon itself and gets pushed together. Another type of vertebral fracture is an axial burst fracture which mostly occurs when one falls from a significant height and lands on their feet. This causes the vertebra to lose height on both the front and backside.
Diagnosis is often via an x-ray in the respective location of the spine. You might also have a CT scan to check for any changes in the bone structure and MRI to identify any spinal cord injury. Treatment will depend on the location and type of injury. For minor fractures, you can make do with cervical bracing. More complex fractures may demand traction, surgery, or both.
Are you experiencing back pain? Or do you simply suspect that you might have a back injury? Don’t let the pain put you out of commission for too long. Our physical therapist in Creve Coeur, Mo, can help. We offer an array of services, including physical therapy, orthopaedic care, and pain management, all designed to help you get back on your feet and do the things you love.