|Understanding your back|
A normal spine is shaped as a double S-curve with two curves to the front and one to the back. If those curves decrease, or increase, the spine becomes unbalanced.
The main functions of the spine is to:
What's more – the spine has to last a life time.
The spine is incredibly strong yet highly flexible.
The spine, is also known as the vertebral column, giving structural support and providing integrity to the human body. The spine is designed to be incredibly strong; protecting the highly vulnerable and sensitive nerve roots, yet highly flexible; providing mobility in many different directions.
About the vertebrae
The spine is made up of 24 blocks called »vertebrae« that are stacked on top of each other and separated by shock-absorbing discs.
The discs function as shock absorbers
The spine is not a rigid structure. It is able to bend and twist because there are flexible cushions or discs between each of the vertebrae. Each disc is a flat, biscuit-shaped structure with a jelly-like centre called the nucleus and an extremely strong outer skin called the annulus.
Why aging can cause back pain
The intervertebral discs are very vulnerable to deterioration because their blood supply is very poor, depriving them of precious nutrients. At birth, eighty percent of the disc is composed of water. With age the discs dehydrate and become stiffer. This is all part of the natural aging process, although in some people this process can be painful, due to instability in the spinal column and inflammation. Classically, twisting injuries damage the discs and cause the deterioration process to become more serious due to the inadequate blood supply therefore healing becomes inhibited causing even more deterioration in these structures and eventually more pain.
The vertebrae are also joined to each other by pairs of small joints which lie at the back of the spine, one on either side. Their main function is to make sure your back doesn't bend or twist further than it should.
Back, abdominal, and buttock muscles stabilize the spine and help maintain proper posture. If muscles or ligaments are stretched or strained they, like the facet joints, often cause low-back and buttock pain. They usually heal within six to eight weeks.
The spinal cord and the nerves
The spinal cord runs from the brain to the level of the second lumbar vertebrae. The lumbar spinal nerves join to form the sciatic nerve.
Ligaments are bands of tough tissue between the bones that keep the vertebrae in good alignment and prevent damage due to excessive movement.