Back and Neck Pain
Published on: November 29, 2020

Published By: Southwest Physical Therapy

Back and neck pain

The symptoms of neck and back pain

Pain occurs when something hurts, causing an uncomfortable, unpleasant, or unbearable feeling. The presence of pain always means that  something is wrong. Each individual and her/his Maker are the best judge of her or his own pain.

Back pain can absolutely destroy quality of life, restricting mobility and interfering with normal functioning. It simply strips people of their peace.

Neck pain occurs in the area of the cervical vertebrae in your neck. Due to its location and range of motion, your neck is often subject to injury because it is left unprotected.

Pain in your back or neck area can be either acute or chronic. Acute pain usually comes on suddenly and is caused by something specific. It tends to be sharp in quality and disappears when there no longer is an underlying cause for it. 

Ongoing pain that may come on quickly or slowly and lingers past normal tissue healing period, lasts months and doesn’t cease and desist unless specifically treated, is classified as chronic pain. Chronic pain is less common than acute pain and can be continuous or intermittent. This pain is worse than acute pain, because it continues even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away, as its (pain) signals remain active in the nervous system.

Examples of causes of acute pain include: Surgery, broken bones, dental work, burns or cuts, labor and childbirth, etc.

Examples of conditions linked to chronic pain include: Back pain, Nerve pain, arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, headaches, etc.

The exact cause of neck and back pain is difficult to determine even with today’s technology. In most cases, neck and back pain may have many different causes, including any of the following:

  • Trauma, injury, or fractures
  • Strenuous activity, overuse, or improper use, such as repetitive or heavy lifting
  • Spinal Stenosis, degeneration of vertebrae, often caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support your spine, or the effects of aging
  • Infection
  • Abnormal growth, such as a bone spur or tumor
  • Obesity, which places increased weight on your spine, and pressure on your discs
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Strain or sprain 
  • Muscle or ligament tears
  • Joint problems, such as arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Herniated (slipped) or protruding disc and pinched nerve
  • Osteoporosis, and compression fractures
  • Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of your bones and vertebrae
  • Abdominal problems, such as an aortic aneurysm 

The symptoms of neck pain may include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Dull aches or sharp shooting pains in your neck
  • Arm tingling or numbness
  • Headaches

The symptoms of back pain may include:

Back pain can range anywhere from a dull, mild, annoying ache, to severe, persistent, disabling pain:

  • Dull, sharp, or burning pain in your back. The pain can cover a large area or be confined to a single spot
  • Leg numbness or tingling, both below or above the knee
  • Achiness or stiffness that occurs anywhere along the spine (from the neck to the tailbone)
  • Sharp, shooting pain that radiates from your low back to your buttocks, down the back of  your thigh, and into your calf and toes
  • A consistent, nagging ache in the middle or lower part of your back, especially after standing or sitting for an extended period

Loss of bowel and bladder control, with weakness in both legs, requires immediate medical attention because those are symptoms of a serious condition.


Back and neck pain is so often due to disc problems. Discs are the gel-like cushions that rest between the vertebrae (bones in the spine). They help maintain the natural curvature of your spine, and allow your back to flex and bend. And so importantly, discs absorb shock as you walk or run.  

When a disc ruptures, leaking its jelly-like center and irritating nearby nerves, it’s called a herniated disc. Southwest Physical Therapy knows that while herniated discs are probably the most common cause of back pain in younger people, they are still a common cause of pain in older patients. Your discs dry out as you age, and become less spongy and pliable; they become rigid, increasing your risk of having a herniated disc.


Osteoarthritis – a ‘wear-and-tear’ type of arthritis – is another common cause of back or neck pain. The joints that connect the vertebrae are lined with cartilage, a flexible, elastic tissue. As you age, the cartilage fades away. At the same time, the discs lose water and become narrow, adding more pressure to the joints. This pressure causes inflammation that leads to back pain. 

When spine pain is primarily in the neck, it could be due to cervical spondylosis (arthritis of the neck). Cervical spondylosis develops when there is abnormal wear on the bones and cartilage in the neck. 

Spinal Stenosis

Southwest Physical Therapy often sees patients who have pain due to spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis occurs when one or more areas of the spine narrow. This narrowing puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain, numbness, or cramping. Aging is one of the biggest risk factors for spinal stenosis, but this condition can also be caused by: 

  • Arthritis
  • Bone Disease
  • Herniated Discs
  • Tumors
  • Spinal Cord Injuries

How to keep your spine young

Even though some back pain is to be expected with age, there is one way to lower your risk of severe pain: Maintain a healthy body weight. Southwest Physical Therapy knows that every pound on your body puts pressure on your musculoskeletal system. Each pound generally puts about 4 pounds of pressure on your system when you’re walking, and 8 pounds when you’re running. It is best to put the least amount of pressure on your back as possible, so it’s extremely important to maintain a healthy weight. Southwest Physical Therapy recommends regular aerobic activity, like walking, jogging, or biking, in addition to eating a healthy diet. Exercise helps you strengthen your back and lose weight. Just be very careful – consult your physician if activity is causing more pain. Anything that causes pain is not good; pain is the body’s natural, built-in mechanism that lets us know that our body doesn’t like what we’re doing. You should never do something that’s putting you in pain. Never. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing neck or back pain, you should promptly see your health care provider for a medical and physical exam; she/he will be prescribing physical therapy treatment as well. You are also free to come directly to Southwest Physical Therapy anytime and we will care for you professionally, to your complete delight and satisfaction. We have individualized treatment programs for neck and back pain and, when a condition warrants it, we work together with your primary care provider and/or specialist. He or she may also do X-rays of the affected areas, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This allows a more complete view. The MRI produces pictures of soft tissues as well, such as tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. The MRI could lead to a diagnosis of tumor, infection, inflammation, or pressure on your nerve. Sometimes a blood test may help diagnose arthritis, a condition that can cause or compound back and neck pain.

So upon reading all the foregoing, you should now be empowered with plenty of understanding on neck and back pain. Now be good to yourself and continue to be wise: start your road to a pain-free life with good mobility by visiting Gotham’s own Southwest Physical Therapy in Brooklyn.

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