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Three Common Patterns of Pain

There are three common patterns of back and neck pain that patients typically experience: the upper body, consisting of the neck, upper back, shoulders and arms; the mid back or thoracic region; and the lower body, including the low back, gluteal muscles, hips and legs. To find out more about these areas of pain and their corresponding symptoms, simply roll your cursor over a selected area of the anatomy below.

Special Note: Those experiencing symptoms such as a loss of bowel or bladder control, or a dragging or dropped foot should see a spine-focused physician immediately or seek emergency care within 24 hours as these symptoms may be a sign of a serious spine condition.
Neck, upper back, shoulders and arms

Neck pain is typically muscle related, usually caused by an injury accident such as whiplash. Sharp pain located in the upper back may be related to several issues such as a muscle strain, degenerative issues or a herniated disc. When numbness or tingling begins to radiate down the shoulders and arms, it's usually the sign of a pinched nerve. The majority of these issues can be treated non-surgically with physical therapy, medication and/or specialized injections.

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Thoracic region

Mid back pain may be caused by several factors. Some of the most common are muscle strain, a ruptured or herniated disc, or a fracture in the thoracic vertebrae. Although pain in this region may be severe, those suffering from these types of issues typically do not require surgery. A customized treatment plan consisting of medication and/or physical therapy usually alleviates the pain symptoms.

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Low back, gluteal muscles, hips and legs

Those who experience lower back pain may be suffering from several factors such as a muscle strain, degenerative issues, herniated disc, sacroiliac joint disease, arthritis of the facet joint, or a fracture in the lumbar vertebrae. Radiating pain in the posterior thigh or legs may be the result of nerve damage from a herniated disc or sciatica. The majority of these cases do not require surgery, but instead are treated with a combination of physical therapy and rehabilitation techniques, medication, and in some cases, specialized injection therapy.

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For Detailed Information by Condition

Browse the Injury Index

1

The Upper Body

Whiplash is an injury brought on by a sudden jerk of the neck such as that which might occur during an automobile accident. It typically causes muscle strain and stiffness, resulting in neck pain.

A muscle strain occurs when muscle fibers in the back tighten involuntarily. Inflammation of spinal structures may also result in muscle spasms. Both of these scenarios typically occur when the back muscles have been pushed beyond their limits.

Herniated discs may occur spontaneously through an injury or heavy strain, or as a preexisting condition. The nucleus of a disc, which acts as a shock absorber located within the area between your spine vertebrae, may rupture and place pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. A bulging disc describes a disc which is protruding, but to a lesser degree then a herniated disc. The important thing to note here is many individuals have a herniated disc but do not carry any symptoms. In fact the majority of these cases require no treatment and even fewer require surgery.

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2

The Middle Back

A muscle strain occurs when muscle fibers in the back tighten involuntarily. Inflammation of spinal structures may also result in muscle spasms. Both of these scenarios typically occur when the back muscles have been pushed beyond their limits.

Herniated discs may occur spontaneously through an injury or heavy strain, or as a preexisting condition. The nucleus of a disc, which acts as a shock absorber located within the area between your spine vertebrae, may rupture and place pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. A bulging disc describes a disc which is protruding, but to a lesser degree then a herniated disc. The important thing to note here is many individuals have a herniated disc but do not carry any symptoms. In fact the majority of these cases require no treatment and even fewer require surgery.

Click here to watch our video on this topic in our Resource Library

3

The Lower Body

Sacroiliac disease typically results from multiple causes including inflammation, degeneration, infection, or trauma around or in the sacroiliac joint.

Arthritis of the facet joint develops slowly over a long period of time. Fractures, torn ligaments and disc degeneration can all cause abnormal movement and alignment placing extra stress on the facet joint. This causes the articular cartilage to wear away, exposing the bone underneath. With bone now rubbing directly against bone, the joint will eventually become arthritic, causing pain and swelling.

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Sciatica, also known as radiculopathy, is a symptom of a problem along the sciatic nerve. A herniated disc or spinal stenosis, for instance, are typical disorders that can cause sciatica, resulting in pain, weakness and numbness down the back of the leg.

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A muscle strain occurs when muscle fibers in the back tighten involuntarily. Inflammation of spinal structures may also result in muscle spasms. Both of these scenarios typically occur when the back muscles have been pushed beyond their limits.

Herniated discs may occur spontaneously through an injury or heavy strain, or as a preexisting condition. The nucleus of a disc, which acts as a shock absorber located within the area between your spine vertebrae, may rupture and place pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. A bulging disc describes a disc which is protruding, but to a lesser degree then a herniated disc. The important thing to note here is many individuals have a herniated disc but do not carry any symptoms. In fact the majority of these cases require no treatment and even fewer require surgery.

Click here to watch our video on this topic in our Resource Library