Manage Back Pain

Spine Anatomy.

Understand your Spine Anatomy so that you can understand the best approach to the treatment of your back pain.



Explaining the anatomy of the spine can be simple or difficult. I'm opting to make it as simple as possible - so here goes!!

You may be suffering from a herniated disc, a condition such as spinal stenosis or may even be considering back surgery - or perhaps you just wish to gain some back pain relief. Having a basic understanding of the anatomy of your spine is essential to help you to either manage or cure your back pain.

We tend to think of our spines as a collection of interlinked bones - but there is a lot more to it than that.

Here I will go through the parts that make up the spinal system: The Discs, nerves, bones, ligaments and muscles.



spine anatomy

There are five major spine areas:
  1. Cervical spine: Has 7 vertebrae known as C1-C7.



  2. Thoracic spine: Has 12 vertebrae known as T1-T12.



  3. Lumbar spine: Has five vertebrae known as L1-L5.



  4. Sacral spine: Has five fused vertebrae known as the sacrum.



  5. Coccygeal spine: Has four fused vertebrae known as the coccyx.






spine anatomy Each vertebra in your spine is a bone made up of:
  1. A main body known as the vertebral body.

  2. Pedicles of bone coming from both sides and the back of the body which in turn forms joints with their neighbouring vertebra.




Between each vertebral body lies a disc which acts as a cushion between the bones. Surrounding each vertebra are many ligaments, nerves, muscles and blood vessels.


It is the close-packed nature of each spinal segment that influences the severity of the symptoms that you can experience if any of the above structures is damaged or moved from its location.


A common example would be when a disc oozes a tiny distance from its centre. This can result in raging sciatic pain down your leg. This pain is transmitted by the nerves that are situated close to the disc.


When I seen clients in my own physiotherapy clinic, we work on isolating which of the following spinal anatomy structures are commonly fault with the presented back and neck pain:
  1. Discs.

  2. Nerves.

  3. Ligaments.

  4. Bones.

  5. Muscles.


Although each has individual functions - and pain presentations - you may frequently experience symptoms of more than one structure due their close proximity to each other and interrelated function. Sourcing the primary cause of your pain is the main focus, as treatment is required primarily to the structure at fault. Correct diagnosis is essential, to ensure a speedy recovery.


When the structures in your back become faulty or painful the result is that you often hold yourself and move in an altered fashion. While you may start with good posture, this inevitably leads to poor postural habits which over time may result in further back or neck dysfunction. So, the anatomical alignment of your spine is crucial to your overall posture and movement patterns.


However, it is also important to say that each person’s spinal anatomy may be different in small ways and that sometimes you can be born with a slight anomaly in your spinal anatomy that may not be reversed but with good advice and back strengthening exercises should not cause you too much trouble after a while.


In summary, seek to understand the make-up of your back and neck. This will help greatly in the overall management of your back pain and neck pain.



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Further References:

Lumbar Lordosis. Your lumbar lordosis is the curve at the base of your spine. If you look at your back from the side, you will see that your spine naturally curves inwards at the neck and lower back and outwards in the middle. Read more about Lumbar Lordosis.

Kyphosis. The middle back, known as the thoracic spine, curves outwards and is known as a kyphosis. Read more about Kyphosis.

Scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition where the curve of your spine is deviating to the right or left. Read more about Scoliosis.

Coccyx. The coccyx is the bone at the very base of your spine - the one that you sit on everyday! Read more about The Coccyx.

Animated illustration of the Spine. I really like this animation of the spine.

Further Spine Details. You will find an exhaustive breakdown of the components of your spine here.


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The information on this web site does not replace specific medical advice. It should only be used to complement advice from your doctor. Always seek in-person advice from a doctor or other qualified health provider for your particular condition.