People say it all the time: “I threw my back out.” What does this actually mean? Did something in your back actually slip out of place? Was it a vertebra? A disc?

First off, bones (vertebrae) and discs rarely go “out of place.” This only happens with significant trauma, and if it does happen, you are in some serious trouble!

The antiquated view of the “bone out of place” is a common misconception of what actually happens when someone suffers from back pain. Typically, the first description when someone “throws their back out” is that there was some sort of audible (sometimes inaudible) pop, click or clunk followed by increased back pain that limits mobility. Ironically, someone’s back will “go out” while attempting to lift a light load (such as picking up a pen off the ground or standing from a sitting position) but rarely from lifting a moderate or heavy load.

A better description of what really happens is that the joints in your back (facet joints between the vertebrae) get stuck together. The vertebrae, joints and discs in your back are supposed to move like cogs in a machine. If it does not mesh, it can cause joints to stick together and muscles to tighten up around them as a protective mechanism. This is why you would find a restriction in range of motion ( a patient having a hard time bending forward, backward or sideways).

So if you suffer from back (or neck pain), you don’t have to worry about your bones going out of place. But it is a great idea to see your chiropractor to treat the problem!