A bit about your back
The spine is made up of 33 small bones called vertebrae with
discs that act as shock absorbers in between. These bones
are given a code to show where they are in the spine.
C followed by a number from 1 to 7 will refer to the vertebrae
in the neck.
• T 1-12 refers to the thoracic spine (from the bottom of the
neck to the lumbar region).
• L followed by 1-5 refers to the lumbar (or lowest) section
of the spine.
• Beneath the lumbar spine there are another 5 vertebrae
fused together, forming the sacrum with the coccyx (or
tail bone) underneath.
The discs are made up of a soft jelly like substance (the nucleus)
which is held inside a tough, elastic and fibrous
outer casing (the annulus). If the outer casing of these
discs is damaged in any way and causes the nucleus to
protrude, or even leak out, it causes what is commonly
known as a 'slipped' disc, but correctly known as a prolapsed
The muscles of the back support this structure and when
these muscles go into spasm the most common form of
back pain occurs. This often happens when you have been
doing something strenuous or that involves a lot of bending
or when you have been in an awkward position for a long
time and go to move. There are other more serious causes
of back pain such as disc prolapse and diseases of the
spine, but if your pain has subsided and there are no unusual
symptoms such as numbness, pins and needles or
pain down the leg, muscle spasm would usually be the culprit
(if your pain lasts longer than 48 hours and is getting
worse, or if any of the signs previously mentioned appear,
you should consult your GP immediately).
The lowest region of the back - the lumbar region - is the
most vulnerable area, and back pain often occurs here.
This is because the lower part of the spine bears the entire
weight of the upper body, and is flexed, twisted and bent
more than any other part of the spine. It therefore, inevitably,
suffers more wear and tear.
You will notice that your spine is not straight, but is actually
an 's' shape. Not all backs are the same 's' shape but
they are usually curved with a hollow in the base of your
neck and another in the small of your back. This shape
should be kept in mind as it is important to keep the natural
curves in your spine whatever you are doing.
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