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Back, Spine, and Neck Mobility

Your back, spine, and neck play an important role in your overall mobility. As you age, the muscles in your legs, hips, and back get tighter and weaker, which can limit back, neck, and spine mobility. This can cause back pain, which in turn can keep you from moving properly. It can also create a cycle of continued muscle weakening and pain. 

Several conditions can hinder back, neck, and spine mobility, including: 

  • Herniated discs 
  • Back arthritis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis

The back, spine, and neck work together

Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae (individual bones) that connect and stack up your back. Your spine is divided into 4 parts:

  • The cervical spine (neck)
  • The thoracic spine (mid-back), which attaches to the ribs
  • The lumbar spine (lower back)
  • The sacrum (tailbone area), which attaches to the pelvis

Each part works together to help your body move and stay upright. If there’s a problem in your neck or one part of your spine, it can affect your overall back mobility. 

Symptoms of back, spine, and neck mobility problems

If your back, spine, or neck hurts when you’re walking, this could be a sign of a back mobility problem. Other symptoms can include:

  • Back or spine pain when you’re bending, twisting, or lifting something
  • Pain in your back that travels down one leg (sciatica)

Herniated discs 

A herniated disc is a problem with one of the cushions (discs) between your vertebrae. The discs between your vertebrae are like caramel filled chocolates; they’re softer on the inside. When some of the “caramel” on the inside of the disc slips out through a tear on the outside, it can irritate the nerves in your spine. This can cause symptoms, such as:

  • Pain in your buttocks, leg, or arm
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness in your arm or leg

Occasionally, a herniated disc can be an emergency because it can cause permanent paralysis or weakness. Call a doctor right away if you’re experiencing back pain along with weakness or numbness, difficulty walking, or loss of bladder or bowel control.  

Herniated discs are caused by the gradual wearing down of the spine from aging. The risk of a herniated disc increases if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Have a physically demanding job
  • Have a genetic predisposition to herniated discs

Back arthritis

Back arthritis is a condition that affects the joints, muscles, and bones and can cause problems like pain, swelling, and stiffness in your back. It can also cause back mobility issues. The lower back is the most commonly affected area. 

There are several types of arthritis that can occur in the back. The most common form of back arthritis is osteoarthritis, which happens when cartilage in the spine breaks down. Factors that can cause osteoarthritis are age, inactivity, and an injury or trauma to a joint.

Other types of arthritis that can affect the back can include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. 

Other back conditions affecting mobility

Other conditions that can cause pain and affect back, spine, and neck mobility include:

  • Degenerative disc disease, which happens when the discs between the vertebrae lose water and dry out
  • Scoliosis, which causes a curve in the spine
  • Sciatica, which is nerve pain that runs down the leg
  • Spinal stenosis, which is caused when nerve roots in the spine get compressed (choked)

How do doctors diagnose back mobility issues?

If you see your doctor for back pain and other symptoms that might be signs of conditions that affect back mobility, they will likely start by determining whether there’s an abnormality in your spinal structure. Your doctor may also do tests to see what range of mobility you have in your back. These tests can include:

  • Regional motion tests using an inclinometer 
  • Finger-to-floor distance tests
  • Schober-index tests 

If your doctor thinks you have a condition like a herniated disc or back arthritis, they may perform imaging tests like CT scans or an MRI and do a neurological exam. 

If you’re having back mobility problems, you may also be tested for an underlying disease or condition, such as an autoimmune disease or an inflammatory spinal condition. 

Specialists at Beaumont can treat back mobility problems

If you’re experiencing a back mobility problem, Beaumont can help. Treatment for a back, spine, or neck problem varies depending on the underlying issue. Our specialists can help you determine the cause of your limited mobility or pain. Once a cause is determined, we offer several different treatment options, and we will work with you to develop a personal treatment plan. 

Nonsurgical treatment options

Depending on the cause, the first course of action is often nonsurgical and geared towards managing your back pain or mobility issue. The nonsurgical treatment options we offer to help improve your back mobility include:

  • Therapy and rehabilitation, including physical, aquatic, and posture therapy
  • Pain relief injections, like nerve root blocking

Surgical treatment options

If your back mobility problems are persistent or caused by a serious condition, your doctor may recommend spinal surgery. Our spine care team includes board-certified orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgical spine specialists — many of whom are innovative researchers and leaders in their field. At Beaumont, we always offer the latest surgical and nonsurgical treatment options. 

If you’re experiencing back, spine, or neck mobility issues, call 800-633-7377 for a referral to a Beaumont specialist or to make an appointment.