The spinal column is divided into five sections, these include:
Cervical (neck) region – levels C1-C7
Thoracic spine (attached to the rib cage) – levels T1-T12
Lumbar spine – levels L1-L5
Sacrum with the small coccyx (tail bone) attached – levels S1-S5
The lumbar spine acts as the main weight bearing section of the spinal column and therefore tends to be the main source of commonly known back pain.
Between each level of the spinal column lies a disc which act as cushions or shock absorbers. Each disc has the potential to dehydrate with age and general wear and tear of this disc material can often lead to common lower back pain and neck ache.
The spinal cord is contained in the spinal column and this carries all the electrical information to the brain. At every level of the spinal column there is a pair of nerve roots that branch off the sides which supply the legs and arms with power and sensory control. Often these nerves can become compressed by either a herniated disc which can be bulging or have ruptured and/or a bony spur most commonly seen in patients with osteoarthritis of the spine.
Cervical nerve compression can cause pain to radiate into the shoulders, arms and hands with associated weakness and altered sensation or the legs and feet in those suffering from lumbar nerve root compression, also known as “sciatica”. Another common source of back pain can be the facet joints at each level of the spine or the sacroiliac joints at the base of the spine. These bilateral joints can degenerate with age and are often the cause of general stiffness and lower back complaints.