scroll to the top of page

My Aching Back!

Posted on October 6, 2017 in Back Surgery

Spine Conditions That Can Cause Pain

Herniated, Slipped or Ruptured Discs

A herniated, slipped or ruptured disc in your back can cause pain. The spinal column, or backbone, consists of 33 bones (vertebrae) and can be divided into five segments, called the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal sections.

Each of these sections corresponds to a particular part of the body. The cervical spine is in your neck, the thoracic spine supports your trunk, the lumbar spine supports your lower back and abdomen, the sacrum supports your pelvis, and the coccyx is your tailbone.

The pain pattern for a herniated, slipped or ruptured disc depends on the location of the disc along the spine and the anatomy of your spinal column.


Sciatica is the descriptive term for pain that runs from your back or buttocks down your leg and into your foot. It is caused by either compression or trauma of the sciatic nerve. Sciatic pain can be more acute when you cough or if someone lifts your leg up while you are lying down. Symptoms may begin abruptly or gradually, are usually irritated by movement, and often grow worse at night. Sciatica implies an irritation of your nerve root in the lower part of your spine. In some instances, it can be caused by a ruptured or herniated disc in your lower back.


Spondylolysis is a defect in the lamina (bony plates that form the posterior walls of the vertebrae), usually in the lower spine. Spondylolysis may occur as a congenital defect or be the result of repetitive trauma. Some physicians believe spondylolysis may be caused by genetics and that someone can be born with thin vertebral bones, causing them to be vulnerable to the condition. Symptoms include lower back pain that is worse with strenuous exercise or activity. For example, gymnasts and football players can be susceptible to spondylolysis.


Spondylolisthesis occurs when spondylolysis weakens one of the vertebrae so much that the bone slips out of place. The condition can also be caused by degenerative disc disease. If the vertebrae slip too much and begin to press on nerves, surgery may become necessary. Spondylolisthesis may also be caused by degenerative conditions that affect the vertebral joints.

Early treatment usually involves rest and medication. Progressive spondylolisthesis usually requires surgical treatment.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains can cause acute back pain and usually are caused by a sudden and stressful injury that causes stretching or tearing of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the lower back. When you strain or sprain your lower back, it stresses and irritates your spine. You may also suffer from painful muscle spasms which can occur during daily activities or at night while you’re sleeping. Pain usually lasts five to 10 days.


Stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal passageway, causes pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and often produces a dull, aching pain in the lower back when standing or walking. People with stenosis may or may not have back pain, but if they do, the pain usually radiates into the buttocks and thighs. The pain usually gets worse over time and eventually causes a slow decrease in the ability to walk short distances.

Spinal stenosis may develop or become symptomatic at any age, but is most frequently diagnosed in older patients. Lumbar (lower back) stenosis often accompanies aging. As our bodies grow older, the ligaments and bones that make up the spine thicken and become stiffer. The spinal canal gradually narrows, and the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves are compressed. This can cause symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness, and bowel/bladder dysfunction. A spine specialist can help patients explore non-surgical treatment options, but if surgery is needed, patients with stenosis typically undergo a lumbar laminectomy

For more information about spine anatomy, conditions, treatment options and advanced surgical procedures, call 865-331-2835 or visit