Eight in ten Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Most people can get their pain under control with over-the-counter medication, rest, and at-home treatments. Yet, on rare occasions, persisting back pain can lead to the need for surgery.
In this article, we explain everything you should know about the spinal column and how some pain can lead to certain treatments.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the spine, so you can better understand back treatment that may be recommended.
1. Spinal Column Anatomy
Twenty-four bones make up the spinal column. These bones referred to as vertebrae, stack on top of each other. To prevent rubbing, each has a soft disc between them. The disc also helps absorb pressure.
The vertebrae are held together by ligaments and tendons hold the muscles to the bones. The spine, much like our knees and elbows feature joints. In the spine, these are facet joints. They make our back flexible.
Every vertebra is hollow for the spinal cord to go through. The spinal column protects the cord and holds it in place. The spinal cord is a collection of tissues and nerves that are necessary for body and brain function.
The spine is split into three sections. From top to bottom, they are the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine. Under the lumbar spine is the sacrum. The nerves here control the bladder, bowels, and crotch area.
The three sections form an “S” shape inside the body. The cervical spine curves in, the thoracic spine goes out, and the lumbar goes back in.
The lumbar spine supports a lot of the body’s weight, but all are necessary so the spine can function properly.
2. The Cervical Spine
The upper spine called the cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae bones. The cervical spine is prone to strain because of constant moving, bending, and twisting.
Two vertebrae in the cervical spine are different from all other vertebrae. They are the atlas and axis vertebrae. These allow the neck to rotate in so many ways that other parts of the spine cannot.
The cervical spine is quite flexible compared to other parts of the spine, but it is prone to injuries. Sudden, strong head movements can easily damage the cervical spine and the longus colli muscle.
If a disc in the cervical spine becomes damaged, acdf neurosurgery may be necessary. This surgery removes the damaged or herniated disc to relieve pain from pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
3. The Thoracic Spine
The center spine called the thoracic spine consists of twelve vertebrae bones. These vertebrae connect to your ribs and form some of the thorax’s back wall.
The thoracic spine is allowed much less movement than the cervical spine and lumbar spine. Because of its position, the thoracic spine sustains fewer injuries. Yet, it is still a site for spinal pain that needs back pain treatment.
It can be prone to stress and injury due to poor posture and more. Several causes of reoccurring back pain in the thoracic spine include the following.
- Fractured vertebrae
- Muscle injury
- Herniated disc
- Infection of the fluid, discs, or spinal cord
Many of these can be treated to relieve back pain. Some are preventable with correct posture and safety measures taken during work or playing sports.
4. The Lumbar Spine
The lower spine called the lumbar spine consists of five or six vertebrae bones. Although it is more common to have five vertebrae in the lumbar spine, six is rarely the cause of any problems.
The lumbar spine is often strained because of its duty to bear weight and twist, bend, and move frequently. A lumbar muscle strain occurs when fibers of the muscle are torn or stretched.
A lumbar sprain can happen when ligaments are unusually or overstretched. Lumbar strains and sprains are common with gradual overuse or a sudden injury.
Inflammation from a lumbar spine strain or sprain can lead to pain and muscle spasms. Yet, neither condition usually needs to be assessed by a neurosurgeon.
If the pain radiates into one’s chest, ribs, arms, or legs, the problem might be more severe and require a specialist’s attention. They may recommend some lower back pain treatment.
5. Muscles that Support the Spine
Many muscles and ligaments support the spine. One of their jobs is to prevent excessive movements that could lead to a spine injury. They also allow the spine to be used in an upright position.
Spinal ligaments and muscles are important to keep the spine stable. Without the spine’s muscular support system, we wouldn’t be able to do many of the positions we put our bodies in.
It is possible to injure any of your paraspinal muscles directly such as a strained or pulled muscle. It’s also possible for the muscles to indirectly cause back pain. This can happen during a muscle spasm.
6. Symptoms of Back Pain that Need Treatment
Pain in the cervical spine, thoracic spine, or lumbar spine, often affects the soft tissue without extending to the limbs or chest. Pain that spreads to the arms, legs, or chest could indicate a larger problem such as pinched nerves.
The following are some other symptoms you should talk to your doctor about if you are experiencing them.
- Stiffness restricting the range of motion in the low back area
- Poor posture due to pain or stiffness
- Notable loss of some motor function
- Muscle spasms
- Persisting pain
One or more of these symptoms be evidence of an issue involving a spinal disc, fracture, infection, or something else. A doctor may put a patient through extensive diagnostic testing to find the problem.
Learn More About the Spinal Column
It’s important to understand the spinal column if you are dealing with back pain. Knowing what part of your spine is injured and how it can be treated will help you on the road to recovery.
If you would like to learn more about the spinal column, check out the rest of our blog page for more articles like this one.