Back pain and anatomy explained


If back pain is affecting your quality of life, you’ll no doubt be looking for relief. Sometimes it’s unclear what’s triggering the problem and without knowing how your back works, it may be challenging to find a solution. A basic understanding of how your back works may help you work out what’s causing your pain and hopefully help you fix it for good.  

Back to basics

Take a moment to stop and marvel at the anatomy of your back. It’s an amazing combination of strong bones, flexible ligaments and tendons, large muscles, and highly sensitive nerves. Your back is incredibly strong and highly flexible. And central to it all is the spine.  

The cervical spine (neck)

Your neck supports the weight of your head and protects the nerves that connect your brain to the rest of your body. Most acute pain in the cervical spine is caused by a muscle, ligament or tendon strain and will often heal with time and non-surgical treatments.  

The thoracic spine (upper back)

The thoracic spine is basically a strong cage, designed to protect vital organs such as the heart and lungs. Injury to the upper back is rare; however irritation of the large back and shoulder muscles can produce back pain.  

The lumbar spine (lower back)

Because the lower back (lumbar) carries the weight of the torso and has a lot more movement than the upper back, it’s most prone to injury. Most lower back pain is caused by muscle strain. Muscle strain doesn’t sound like a serious injury, trauma to the muscles and other soft tissue in the lower back can cause severe back pain.  

The sacral region (bottom of the spine)

The sacrum is connected to part of the pelvis, with the tailbone sitting at the very bottom of the spine. Pain in the sacral region is more common in women than men.  

What causes back pain?

One of the challenges in diagnosing the root cause of back pain is the fact that many things can produce similar feelings of pain, be it nerve irritation, muscle strain, or injury to discs, bones, joints or ligaments. Fortunately, back pain is usually not the result of a significant injury or disease and can be treated, and even prevented, through making simple changes to your diet, exercise routine, posture, core strength and your mattress.  

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