Structural Components of the Spine
To understand what causes back pain, here is a short anatomy lesson. This overview will help you understand your spine specialist and you will understand better what treatment your doctor is recommending for you.
Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar
Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae. Each vertebra is made up of the vertebral body in the front, the facet joints in the back and the pedicles, which connect the vertebral body to the facet joints. The human spine is divided into three sections: 1) the cervical spine or neck is made up of 7 vertebrae, 2) the thoracic spine made up of 12 vertebrae and 3) the lumbar spine or low back which consists of 5 vertebrae.
When a disc herniates, the jelly center squeezes out through the disc wall putting pressure against a nerve. While pain in the back and leg from pressure on the nerve can be relieved by various treatments, the damage done to the disc will be permanent and may have real consequences. Aging also results in a decrease in blood supply to the disc by age 20. Dehydration also occurs with aging. This leads to a flatter, drier disc more susceptible to herniation. Regular exercise helps to prevent injury through self-lubrication and increased blood flow.
The pain may be quite severe. Fortunately, with rest, ice and a few aspirin, the pain will often subside. Stretching and exercise will help prevent repeat strains.
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