Get answers to your Spine related questions.
Herniated disk; Sciatica
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 8 out of 10 people have some type of backache.
Back pain can be acute, subacute, or chronic.
Back pain can occur in any area of the back, but it is more common in the lower back, which supports most of the body's weight.
The back is highly complex, and pain may result from damage or injury to any of its various bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and other structures. Still, despite sophisticated techniques, which provide detailed anatomical images of the spine and other tissues, the cause of most cases of back pain remains unknown.
Vertebrae. The spine is a column of small bones, or vertebrae, that support the entire upper body. The column is grouped into three sections:
Below the lumbar region is the sacrum, a shield-shaped bony structure that connects with the pelvis at the sacroiliac joints.
At the end of the sacrum are two to four tiny, partially fused vertebrae known as the coccyx, or "tail bone."
Each vertebra is designated by using a letter and number, allowing the doctor to determine where it is in the spine.
The Disks. Vertebrae in the spinal column are separated from each other by small cushions of cartilage known as intervertebral disks. The disks have no blood supply of their own. They rely on nearby blood vessels to keep them nourished.
Each disk is 80% water and contains two structures.
Processes. Each vertebra in the spine has a number of bony projections called processes. The spinous and transverse processes attach to the muscles in the back and act like little levers, allowing the spine to twist or bend. The particular processes form the joints between the vertebrae themselves, meeting together and interlocking at the zygapophysial joints (more commonly known as facet, or z-joints).
Spinal Canal. Each vertebra and its processes surround and protect an arch-shaped central opening. These arches, aligned to run down the spine, form the spinal canal, which encloses the spinal cord.
Spinal Cord. The spinal cord is the central trunk of nerves that connects the brain with the rest of the body. Each nerve root passes from the spinal column to other parts of the body through small openings, bounded on one side by the disk and on the other by the facets. When the spinal cord reaches the lumbar region, it splits into four bundled strands of nerve roots called the cauda equina (meaning horsetail in Latin).
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