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Understanding your back
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:

  • Support the trunk and the head
  • Allow flexibility of the body – be capable of bending and twisting in all directions
  • Protect the spinal cord

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

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 neck has 7 vertebrae (cervical spine C1-C7);
  • the chest has 12 vertebrae, each carrying two ribs (thoracic spine T1-T12);
  • there are 5 vertebrae in the low back or lumbar area (lumbar spine L1-L5);
  • five fused vertebrae create a solid base called the »sacrum« and
  • the »coccyx« or tailbone has three very small and fused vertebrae

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.

Facet joints

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.

Muscles

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 cords 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.
Spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord between each two vertebrae and carry commands to the organs and muscles. These nerves also send messages relating to touch, temperature, and pain to the spinal cord and the brain. If a nerve is pinched by a protruding disc, pain often results in the back and in the leg.

Ligaments

Ligaments are bands of tough tissue between the bones that keep the vertebrae in good alignment and prevent damage due to excessive movement.

Healthy back

Rehabilitation from back pain


Rehabilitation - also called physical therapy or exercise - is critical for preventing back pain and for recovering from a bout of back pain or surgery.

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Most common mistakes in back care


We spend a lot of time talking about what to do to care for your back and spine. For a change of pace, we thought it would be valuable to provide some input about common mistakes to avoid.

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Low back pain – causes and symptoms


Low back pain (LBP) is often described as sudden, sharp, persistent, or dull pain felt below the waist. It is very common and affects the majority of people at some point during their life.

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General information about back pain


With evolution man has developed from primates to upright walking person. This has brought good and bad things, including back pain.

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Posture and back pain


Watching for the correct poise is the most what we can do for our spine. But learning the correct poise technique is not so easy. Our poise can’t be fixed over night, we have to take it easy and put a lot of effort in it.

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Acute back pain


Sudden acute pain can be really painful and exhausting but it might not be a sign for constant problems. Most common causes for acute back pain are chronic, long lasting troubles, for example bad posture or abdominal muscle weakness. The latter can cause increased pressure and burdening of the spine and back muscles which eventually can lead to back injuries.

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Chronic back pain


Chronic back pain is the most common problem which doctors have to deal with in developed countries. It is the most common reason for absences from work compared to any other illnesses.

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What causes back pain


Spine is a complex mechanism, therefore even a smaller injury of joints, muscles, ties and nerves can cause pain.

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Who is hurt by back pain?


Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the world. It can occur at any age at both men and women.

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How stress effects our back?


Twentysomethings who experience lifestyle stress may be increasing their risk for development of back pain in their 30s.

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Body weight impact on your spine


Overweight has a harmful impact on your spine. Extra fat doesn’t do any good to your body. In contrast with muscles which protect joins, extra weight just increases the burden that joints have to carry. That is especially harmful for joints in loin and hips.

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False ideas about back


There are many false ideas about the causes and appropriate treatments for back pain. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings can often lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety and even behavior that can make your back pain worse.

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Facts and figures about back care


Facts and figures about back care give an overview of the total number of people affected by back pain, the associated costs and various other facts and figures.

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