Many different types of back injuries exist, but the most common back injuries include muscle strains, ligament sprains, vertebral fractures, herniated discs, and spinal compression. Muscle strains are perhaps the most common of these back injuries; they occur when the tiny fibers that make up a muscle begin to tear, causing pain and discomfort in the affected area. Sprains are similar to strains, except sprains occur in ligaments that attach bones within a joint. Vertebral fractures have the potential to be a very serous injury, especially if left untreated; they occur when bones in the spine crack, and the severity of the crack could dictate the amount of pain or discomfort felt.
A herniated disc is one of the more common back injuries that may or may not cause significant pain. Some people never experience any symptoms of this injury, while others develop chronic back pain or severe pain as a result. A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc ruptures or bulges; the spinal disc sits between two vertebrae, and when the spine becomes compressed, the vertebrae can put pressure on the spinal disc, causing it to bulge or rupture. The disc then puts pressure on nerves that run in and around the spine, causing pain throughout the back, and even into the hips, buttocks, and legs, as well as other parts of the body. Herniated discs often heal on their own, but more severe instances may require surgery.
Muscle strains are back injuries that commonly occur during physical activity. A muscle can become strained when undue pressure is placed upon it, or if the muscle moves in a way that is unnatural. The muscle fibers tear, causing pain and discomfort. If the muscle tears completely from itself or the tendons securing it to bone, the injury is known as a muscle rupture and surgery will be necessary to fix the damaged tissue.
Spinal compression occurs when the spine presses against itself. This may be due to an injury or sudden force being applied to the spine, or it may occur because of gravity's pull on the body throughout the day. Spinal compression can lead to discomfort for many reasons, including the development of herniated discs and muscle strains. Stretching and exercise are usually sufficient to help alleviate pain due to spinal compression.
Fractures occur when any bones in the body endure a force it cannot handle, resulting in small cracks known as fractures. The cracks can be very small and heal on their own, or they can be very large and require a surgery. The vertebrae in the spine can fracture, which can potentially be a dangerous condition. Other bones may fracture, leading to pain throughout the back; the bones do not necessarily need to be located in the back in order to cause pain in that area.