Lumbar Spine Anatomy

Lumbar Spine model with labels

Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)

Lower back pain is so common that almost everyone will have it at some point in their life.  In order to understand why and how back pain occurs – and more importantly, what can be done about it – a quick lesson in anatomy is very helpful.

Your spine is made up of repeated segments of bone called vertebrae, and you have five of these bones in your lower back.  Each vertebrae consists of the large, thick vertebral body in the front and the facet joints and spinous processes (those are the bumps you can feel through your skin) in the back.  The vertebrae are inter spaced with fibrous discs which help with shock absorbancy and support.  The spinal cord is a large bundle of nerves starting from your brain which travel through holes in the vertebrae down the length of your spine.  Between each vertebrae, some of these nerves exit the spinal cord (labeled as nerve roots on the diagram) and travel to various locations in the body.  An important nerve in your lower back is the sciatic nerve which is made up of 4 or 5 nerve roots which join together and run down the back of your leg.  The facet joints, located at the back of each vertebra – just behind the nerve roots, allow bending and twisting motions in the lower back.  Layered on top of the structures in the diagram are multiple configurations of ligaments and muscles in every conceivable orientation to allow you to move, and which hold everything together and provide protection, support, and strength.

The primary concern of chiropractic is to maintain and encourage proper movement in these bony elements which helps to ensure the proper health and function of the surrounding tissue. (Nerves, ligaments, muscles, discs, etc.)  Two of the most common culprits of low back pain are irritations of the facet joints and problems with the discs.  In both cases, the real trouble begins when these disruptions become significant enough to irritate the nerve roots.
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