Why Is Back Pain so Closely Intertwined With Brain Injuries?

There is a link between traumatic brain injury and back pain. The association between the two occurs for several reasons we will discuss in this article. The link adds to the severity of the injury and its traumatic outcome. Let’s explore the association between brain trauma and back pain.

Type of Pain Associated With a Traumatic Brain Injury

The pain after a traumatic brain injury or TBI can be chronic or acute. It can affect not just the head but many different body areas. Aside from neck or upper back pain, it can cause gastrointestinal and orthopedic discomfort. 

How a Traumatic Brain Injury Affects the Frontal Lobe

For some patients, the injury can initially start in the frontal lobe. This part of the brain is intricately associated with judgment, cognitive thought, emotion and memory. Brain scans show increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is a specialized region of the frontal lobe. In the past, it was thought that this activity was due to pain. However, it is known that the pain is due to increased activity. 

Concussion and Back Pain

Concussion has been linked to post-traumatic headaches and upper back pain for some time. However, a large study with 104 patients showed that not only is back pain limited to the upper spine but also to the area innervated by the nerves leaving the spinal cord in the lumbar region. Of the individuals in the study, those with mild issues suffered the same percentage of pain issues. The number of those with lower back pain was comparable to patients with upper back discomfort. 

Brain Trauma Can Result in Back Muscle Pain

A large number of people in the United States suffer from back pain. Many cases of back pain are due to muscle tenderness and generally resolve with rest. However, some patients with back pain are continually affected, and rest does not resolve the problem. This is especially true with people who suffer personal injury accidents This pain can be due to pressure exerted on the spinal cord and its nerves. For example, a herniated disc puts pressure on a spinal nerve.

When you are subjected to head trauma and subsequent brain injury, the experience of back pain is not expected. However, it is a common aftereffect and can linger for months or years. 

How Muscle Coordination Affects Back Pain

One of the expected effects of a brain injury such as a concussion is that it might affect that part of the brain that controls muscle coordination and balance. This ensures that the muscles and the nervous system are aligned. However, the concussion may cause muscle coordination to be out of sync. The back muscles try to compensate for this shortfall and by doing so, cause back pain on a chronic basis. 

Treatment Options for Low Back Pain Due to a Concussion

It is important to see a medical professional to deal with back pain associated with a concussion. The doctor will choose the best way to treat your back pain, including some alternative methods. 

Prognosis After a TBI

This depends on the type of brain injury and its intensity. A few factors can differentiate between a good prognosis and a poor one. For instance, the patient’s age, the part of the brain that was injured and whether they slipped into a coma can affect the outcome. 

A critical factor to a good prognosis is when treatment begins. It is essential to have early treatment after a traumatic brain injury. Early treatments can include monitoring the brain’s intracranial pressure, medications, surgery and inducing a regulated medical coma. Rehabilitation is a way to help the patient recover more fully.