1145 S.W. 74th Street, Building I
Suite 100
Oklahoma City, OK 73139

Phone: (405) 632-1783
Fax: (405) 631-0508

Overview of Back Pain

Where is my back pain coming from?
Before this question can be answered, you need to understand the anatomy of the scientific marvel that we call the back. The spinal cord consists of repetitive segments of a functional unit. This functional unit consists of two adjacent vertebral bodies with discs in between. Facet joints are what allow most of the spinal movement. The neural foramen is where the spinal nerves exit the spinal canal. Ligaments are the structures that hold the bones together. Muscles stabilize the back and are the force that moves the back. There are three natural curves of the spine, they are located at the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine.

These curves serve several different purposes:

  • They serve as a shock absorber.
  • They keep the center of gravity at the middle of the vertebral body. 
  • They keep the distribution of body weight equal on the surface of each vertebra.

Following is a list of conditions that can cause back pain:

  • A microfracture of a bone also known as a compression fracture. This is usually a result of trauma to the back. 
  • A bulging or herniated disc. This can cause pressure on the nerve root in its foramen and can result in several different symptoms of pain including sciatica with severe leg pain and/or numbness. 
  • Facet joint arthritis. This type of arthritis usually creates more localized low back, buttocks, and upper thigh pain.
  • Ligament injury resulting in instability of the back. 
  • Muscle strain or sprain is another very painful condition of the back, which can sometimes take up to six weeks to heal. 
  • Lumbar Disc Disese: the disc is like a car tire with very strong and firm outer cartilage with a "jello" center. The "jello" center is under a lot of pressure, which gives the disc the cushion like characteristic. This "jello" is what prevents bone grating on bone. When the disc is herniated the outer cartilage is allowing the center to be squeezed out, causing the disc to loose its cushion. This type of injury can bother the nerve root resulting in sciatic pain and lower extremity pain and numbness.
  • Facet Joint Arthritis: this is a type of arthritis in the joints of the back. It is a degenerative wear and tear phenomenon. It mimics the arthritis common experienced in the knees. Lumbar disc herniation usually will be followed by arthritis of the adjacent joints because these joints will be forced to carry more weight than usual.

How do I manage my current back pain?

  • Rest is a very important element of treating an acute onset of back pain. Do your best to maintain a comfortable position while sleeping. A good night sleep is essential to a rapid recovery.
  • NSAID: medicine will help treat inflammation and pain. 
  • Muscle relaxant medicines are used to help relieve painful muscle spasms.
  • Pain Medicines usually are narcotics and should be taken only as prescribed.
  • Gradual return to normal activity is the best solution for getting "back on your feet." Watch your movements.
  • Physical Therapy, heating, and other modalities can help the acute attack. 
  • Exercise therapy recommended only after treating the acute onset of the attack.

Patient Education

Pain Causes and Treatments A-Z

Back Pain Conditions

Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain



Stryker - Patient Education