Spinal pain in the lumbar region (lower back) and cervical region (neck) are highly prevalent and are often the causes for many lost work days. Lumbar muscle strains and sprains are the most common causes of low back pain. The thoracic spine can also be a site of spinal pain, but because it is much more rigid, the thoracic spinal area is much less frequently injured than the lumbar and cervical spine.
The lumbar and cervical spine are prone to strain because of its weight-bearing function and involvement in moving, twisting and bending. Lumbar muscle strain is caused when muscle fibers are abnormally stretched or torn. Lumbar sprain is caused when ligaments — the tough bands of tissue that hold bones together — are unusually stretched. Both of these can result from a sudden injury or from gradual overuse.
When the lumbar spine is strained or sprained, the soft tissues become inflamed. This inflammation causes pain and may cause muscle spasms. Even though lumbar strain or sprain can be very debilitating, neither usually requires neurosurgical attention.
Non-surgical low back, cervical and thoracic pain usually affects the central or para-spinal soft tissue without radiating into the arms, around the chest or down the legs. On the contrary, pain radiating from the spine into the extremities or chest wall implies structural pinching of the nerves in the spine that might require a surgical opinion if the situation fails to improve within days to weeks with non-surgical symptomatic treatment.
Other symptoms include:
- Stiffness in the low back area, restricting range of motion
- Inability to maintain normal posture due to stiffness and/or pain
- Muscle spasms either with activity or at rest
- Pain that persists for a maximum of 10-14 days
- Notable loss of motor function such as the ability to tiptoe or heel walk.