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spinal pain

Types of pain

The pain of spinal wear and tear

The spine is a complex interconnecting network of nerves, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and all are capable of producing pain. Large nerves that originate in the spine and go to the legs and arms can make pain radiate out.

Local pain

The outer membrane of the intervertebral disc has a nerve supply and is sensitive to injury. Minor splits or larger tears in this outer membrane and the resultant bulging of the disc itself can all generate a considerable amount of local spinal pain.

When a disc bulges it loses height and the adjacent joints become slightly displaced. They then become inflamed, producing a localized form of arthritis. This also causes pain, experienced in the spine but often felt on one side or the other, rather than in the mid-line. Finally, when discs bulge and facet joints displace, the muscles of the spine may go into spasm and themselves become a source of pain.

Referred pain

In addition to local pain, a person may experience pain that is felt in a different part of the body than that from which it actually originates. For example, pain may be experienced in the shoulder and upper arm or in the bottom and the thigh.

Nerve pain

The third type of pain is nerve pain, which is very different from the other two sorts of pain described. It is usually sharp or shooting in nature, although it can also be experienced as a burning sensation. When this sort of pain occurs in the spine it results from pressure on nerves and often spreads to the arm or the leg.