Column What are the real causes of pain and numbness? A deeper understanding leading to root treatment of back pain.
１．What exactly is “pain”, and what is its role?
Pain may be unpleasant, but it has an important life-saving function!
Pain, soreness, aching are all medically referred to as a sort of -algia, but when do you feel pain exactly? You have probably felt pain due to the following experiences:
- Pain from a scratch, or from bumping into something hard.
- Stomachaches, headaches
- Muscle aches from sports
- Experiencing searing pain after suffering a burn
- When your neck and shoulders are stiff and sore, or your back and legs ache for no known reason.
Which poses the question:
Pain is unpleasant, but if we had no pain, would that really be a good thing for them?
No, not only would it not be good, but our lives would be in danger.
By having pain, a person becomes aware that there is something abnormal or unusual going on in his or her body.
Without pain, we would not be able to detect and avoid danger, for instance if a car was getting dangerously close, and we would repeatedly get injured or sick.
Pain is an important function of the body to protect us from injury or illness.
However, there are some unpleasant types of pain, among which low back pain, that are needlessly persistent, and I would now like to explain how to alleviate them.
Different Types of Pain
Pain can be broadly divided into two types:
1. Pain that protects the body from danger (nociceptive pain)
Pain that occurs in response to some external stimulus. Cuts, bruises, broken bones, headaches, stomach aches, burns, etc. are examples of pain that occur to protect oneself from danger.
In back pain, this pain is often seen in herniated discs and intervertebral arthritis, etc. (see below for more details).
2. Nerve pain (neuropathic pain)
Simply put, this is pain that occurs in the absence of external stimuli, when there is an abnormality or disorder somewhere in the nerve that transmits pain, such as when a nerve is damaged due to diabetes or shingles (herpes zoster).
It is a common symptom of scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, sciatica, and other low back pain conditions.
２．Pain and Numbness in Back Pain Conditions – What are the causes?
First, allow me to digress a bit.
The advanced treatment we use at our clinic, the “Cellgel Method,” is a treatment that repairs the intervertebral discs.
And the diseases and symptoms that the Cellgel Method addresses are:
- Lumbar Disc Herniation
- Disc Degeneration
- Spinal Stenosis
- Spondylolysis / Spondylolytic Spondylolisthesis
- Lumbar Osteoarthritis
- Lumbar Instability
- Lumbar Scoliosis
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Myofascial Pain
- Sacroiliac Joint Pain
- Lumbar Compression Fracture
- Intermittent Claudication
Some well-versed in each of these back pain disorders might be thinking, “Surely there are some ailments that are unlikely to be cured by repairing the disc alone?”
Here is my question to them: what is really tormenting you, is it the herniated disc or any related ailment? Or rather, is it the pain and numbness in your back and legs that you feel on a daily basis?
And I bet the answer is the latter, the pain and numbness.
And what is important is that the root cause of the pain and numbness caused by the diseases and symptoms mentioned above is the intervertebral disc.
For some reason, most hospitals, clinics, and academic societies in Japan are very proactive in trying to get rid of the visible disorders only, such as removing or reducing the size of a hernia if it is a hernia, or scraping off the bone or ligament that is pressing on the nerve in the case of spinal stenosis. However, it seems that very little thought is given to whether these are the real causes of the pain and numbness.
Of course, there is no doubt that such surgeries and treatments are effective in the short term, but the truth is that they do not actually solve the problem of the disc, which is the root cause of pain and numbness, and therefore have a high risk of recurrence in the long term.
In fact, it has been reported in many past records that the percentage of the recurrence rate of these common surgical procedures is in the order of several digits, which is quite high.
３．The Real Reason behind Pain and Numbness
So, what really causes pain and numbness in low back pain?
Back pain can be broadly classified into the following four types of pain and numbness.
２．Pain from inflammation of intervertebral joints
３．Pain from inflammation of fascia / lower back muscles
４．Numbness from nerve compression
- Discogenic pain is pain that occurs when components of the disc, that have been damaged mainly due to aging, leak out of the disc much like a hernia, causing an immune response and inflammation. This pain is believed to account for a significant proportion of low back pain.
- Facet joint pain is caused by an inflammation of the intervertebral joints.
Inflammation is caused by continuous strain on the facet joints due to damage to the discs that result in an unstable balance in the spine. The facet joints are also particularly prone to pain because of the concentration of pain-sensing peripheral nerves in these joints.
3. Inflammation of the fascia and muscles of the lower back, as in the case of facet joints, occurs when muscles are forced to support an imbalance in the spine due to aging damage to the intervertebral discs.
4. Numbness due to compression of the nerves is caused by several factors other than herniated discs, which are deformed and compress the intervertebral discs.
・A deformed disc compresses the nerve (herniated disc).
・The bone deforms to support the spine, which becomes unstable due to the deformed disc, and the deformed bone compresses the nerve.
・The ligamentum flavum thickens to support the spine, which becomes unstable due to a deformed disc, and compresses the nerve.
・The facet joints thicken and compress the nerves to support the spine, which has become unstable due to the deformed discs.
As you can see, “disc aging = deformation = damage” is the root cause of all back pain and numbness.
- Strictly speaking, it is said that back pain and numbness can also be caused by psychogenic factors, but since this is outside the scope of our specialty, we will refrain from elaborating on this topic.
４．What is a truly effective way to reduce pain and numbness from various back-related diseases?
So, as we have described so far:
The most effective way is to repair the disc that has been deformed or damaged by aging.
The “Cellgel Method” is the treatment method that we have adopted at our clinic through years of research, study, and training.
If you would like to know more details about the Cellgel method, please refer to the following links:
Written by Tadaaki Minowa, Clinic Director