About Your Back

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A healthy back is strong, flexible and pain free. It supports the upper body, protects the spinal cord, and allows for maximum mobility. Many complex, interrelated parts help the back to perform these function.

The Spinal Column

Your spinal column is made of 24 bony segments called vertebrae, properly aligned and connected by a series of joints, ligaments and muscles. Interlocking joints called facets allow the vertebrae flexibility of movement, while discs between the vertebrae perform a protective, cushioning function. The vertebrae and discs in the lower back are the largest and carry the greatest body weight. Strong back and abdominal muscles give the back the support it needs and are especially important for the low back area.

Disc Anatomy

Discs are pads of cartilage between the vertebrae that absorb the pressure of continuous body weight on the spinal column. Their jelly-like nucleus is surrounded by a tough, fibrous covering, making them an ideal cushion. Aging and normal wear and tear can cause the discs to distort, putting painful pressure on the sensitive spinal nerves. Your back is naturally flexible and strong, but its parts are in delicate balance. Proper alignment and the support of strong back muscles and ligaments, as well as strong abdominal muscles, keep a healthy back functioning properly.

Nerves

Your spine is the channel connecting your brain with the nerves throughout your body. Spinal nerves branch off from the spinal cord and goes out to the body. Nerves from the neck and upper back supply the arm and nerves from the low back supply the legs.

Soft Tissue

Soft tissue includes muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Muscles work together to move and support your head. Tendons are tough tissues that connect muscle to bone. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that stabilize and connect the vertebrae.

Understanding the Problem

With nerve root problems, the spinal nerves that pass through the vertebrae in your spine become pinched and irritated. You may experience sharp pain shooting down your arm (often triggered by turning your head), down your leg, or tingling, weakness, and numbness in your arms and hands or legs and feet. A nerve root problem can be caused by a variety of joint and disc problems, such as facet problems, a ruptured (herniated) disc, or severe osteoarthiritis. Left untreated, further problems can develop. The nervous system is the most important system in the body because it basically controls the rest of the body – it’s like the fuse box in your house – if there is a blown fuse or a problem in the nervous system – no nerve impulse gets to certain areas of the body – just like no electricity gets to certain parts of the house.