Pain Relief

Overview of the Back

Lesson 2

The low back, or lumbar spine, is the lowermost portion of our spine.  It consists of 5 individual segments, called vertebrae, that are stacked one on top of the next.  The front side of each vertebrae is called the vertebral body and is separated from the adjacent vertebral body by a spinal disc.  These discs provide shock absorption for our backs as well as the ability to deform to allow for the mobility our backs need.  The back side of the vertebrae consists of two more small joints and a large spine for muscles to attach to.

Directly behind these discs and running through the middle of the vertebrae is the spinal cord.  Individual nerves leave the spinal cord and exit between the stacked vertebrae.  These nerves provide all of the communication between our brains and our bodies.  They supply all of the information from our bodies (touch, taste, smell, etc) as well as all of the commands from our brains (how and when to move).

  This complex stack of bones and nerves is held together by an intricate web of ligaments, tendons and muscles.  Each of the joints is held together by a ligamentous capsule that is then supported by several muscles spanning one to several joints.  All of this works together to give our backs the wonderful range of motion and stability we need for everyday life. 


  • The back is a complicated system that is not only meant to protect our delicate messaging highway, the spinal cord, but also needs to be mobile enough so that we can explore the world around us.
  • This need for mobility also makes our demand for postural control greater.
  • With the demands of daily life we can easily let our backs round, putting extra strain on the muscles and ligaments in the back and extra compression forces on the discs in the front.


The low back is a complicated system that consists of many bones, joints, ligaments and muscles.  These all work together to protect our spinal cord as well as allow us to move through the full range of motion our daily lives require.  

We can injure these tissue through several mechanisms but the most common and easiest to do is from chronically over stretching the muscles and ligaments in the back and compressing the structures in the front.  

Now, let's take a look at your back specifically.

Next we move on to the self assessment.