Our spines are remarkable—they’re made up of incredibly intricate systems of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that all work together to enable us to move in all directions.
But there’s a downside to all of this movement. Over time, it can cause wear-and-tear related damage that may lead to pain and stiffness. Understanding how movement impacts your spine can help you better communicate with your physician. Hopefully, the better the communication, the faster you will find a treatment that works for you.
1. Large spinal muscles are easily strained with twisting motions
The most common reason motion causes back or neck pain has little to do with the bones in your spine. Instead, it’s related to the muscles and ligaments that surround your spine. When you twist your lower back, such as during a golf swing or while bending to unload grocery bags, you run the risk of overstretching or tearing any of the large muscles or supporting ligaments around your spine. In response to this damage, the surrounding area will usually become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to a back spasm, and it’s the back spasm that can cause severe lower back pain.
2. Lumbar spine motion can cause a disc herniation
Your lumbar spine (lower back) is constantly in motion, and it also carries the entire weight of your torso. This makes your lumbar spine particularly prone to injuries. The motion in your lumbar spine is divided between five vertebral motion segments. Each one of these segments is made up of two cartilage-covered facet joints and a spinal disc. Your two lowest discs (the L4-L5 and L5-S1) endure the most strain, and therefore are the most likely to become herniated. A herniation can lead to sciatic pain that radiates down your leg and to your foot.
3. Motion can lead to cartilage breakdown
Repetitive motions, especially for athletes, can lead to spinal osteoarthritis—or the mechanical breakdown of the cartilage between your aligning facet joints in the back portion of the spine. When this happens, the facet joints become inflamed, and progressive joint degeneration creates more frictional pain. As your back pain progresses, the motion and flexibility of the spine decreases.