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‘Who has never had pain in the back or in the neck?’

Only a few of us can really say this. Some people even call it ‘the disease of the century’. In most cases, the pain goes away by itself/spontaneously. At times, however, the symptoms can persevere, making a visit to the general practitioner unavoidable. A history will be then be taken, a clinical examination performed and some tests such as X-rays and scanners requested. Often medication will be prescribed as well as some form of physiotherapy or osteopathy.

Some people prefer alternative medicine. In fact, this is not too bad: back and neck problems are mostly benign anyway. The risk remains however to miss an important pathology. It is, therefore, best to always consult with the general practitioner.

Why is it that we get this pain in the back and in the neck and why does it sometimes radiate so persistently towards the limbs?

Let us first make a simple drawing of the structure of the spine. The spine has a triple function:

  1. Stability, because it is the axis of the body
  2. Mobility, because we want to be able to move swiftly
  3. Protection, of the spinal cord, and the important nerves which are inside it

The vertebrae are kept together by means of intervertebral discs in the front and two facet joints at the back. The intervertebral discs are the cause of all our misery. They wear out, but the speed at which this happens varies from one person to the next. For some, this happens early (around 20-30 years), and for others much later. We all know at least someone who has grey hair before they reach thirty – which is hardly old! The same happens in the spine with the intervertebral discs. But there is more: everybody wears the discs out, yet it bothers some people and not others. It is not fair, but it is life and we cannot do anything to change it.