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Can your back get hurt without really doing anything?

As a Chiropractor in Norwalk, CT, I see a lot of patients with back pain. Sometimes, figuring out the cause is easy. If you lift a load of bricks, and your back starts to hurt, you can safely assume that lifting something heavy was the cause. Other times, there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable explanation for an onset of back pain. No recent long travel, no sitting at a desk all day in bad posture. There is still a lot of pain, though, so how does that work? How can your back hurt so much if you didn’t do anything to cause it.

Inflammation in the Back

Musculoskeletal pain, or pain from the muscles and joints rather than from your organs or from disease, is usually associated with some degree of inflammation. Tearing or straining a muscle causes it to bleed, and the body produces an inflammatory response to start healing.

Sometimes, the clue to finding out the cause of the pain is to find out which tissue is inflamed. Muscular inflammation can come from overworking muscles in bad posture or bad ergonomics. Joint inflammation can be from a sprain, or arthritis from long term micro injuries. A spinal joint can be overworked over years from poor posture or from your genetic makeup. (Read more about the causes of back pain.)

However, there are still cases of back pain that stump even my best attempts at detective work. In those cases, here’s what I think is the cause of the problem.

Back Pain without a cause

How can things like putting on your shoes, turning your head or reaching for some paper on the floor cause enough force to stop you in your tracks with pain?  Those things can’t — on their own. If the back is already not working properly, the added strain on the moving parts can be enough to throw your back out.

  • How does that work? – Even the most active among us is pretty sedentary compared to what our bodies are made for. Any prolonged time spent sitting or lying down is time that stiffness and misalignment can build up in the muscles and joints in our back. Think eight hours slumped in your office chair, or a few hours in a cramped airplane seat.
  • Step two – There are so many joints in the back that nearby joints can pick up the slack when some areas become stiff or misaligned. This process works well to keep you moving and able to do your activities, but it can make those misaligned areas get more misaligned. As those compensation patterns multiply, they set the scene for a painful episode.
  • The last straw – In the midst of your body making adjustments on the fly to keep you functioning, you innocently decide to pick up that piece of gum that fell out of your pocket. Because the movement pattern between your spinal bones is altered, your back can’t bend the way it wants to. That is the time when your muscle either develops a tear or goes into a painful spasm.

Prevention of Back Pain

The best way to prevent back pain with no known cause is to prevent joint misalignments before they cause a flare up. Don’t make it a habit to stay in one position for a long time every day:

  • Schedule yourself mini breaks at work.
  • Get out and stretch every hour on a long car drive.
  • Make sure your bed is firm enough to allow you to change positions easily while asleep.
  • Get up and walk the aisle on long flights.

Treatment of Misalignments

Once your spine does get knocked out of alignment, you will need a chiropractor to adjust you back into place. But how do you know when the spine is out of alignment before it become painful?

Early Symptoms of Spinal Misalignments

  • Feeling of stiffness or reduced range of motion first thing in the morning.
  • A feeling that you have to stretch constantly or try to pop your own back.

Make an Appointment

If you feel like you have any of these symptoms, and you live or work in the Norwalk, CT area, you can have your spine evaluated and treated by Dr French. Click the button below to see our available appointment times, and to schedule yourself online, or contact us with questions.

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