Low back pain isn’t subtle
If you have low back pain, you know it! Low back pain can be described as sharp, radiating, persistent or dull pain felt in the low back, just below the waist. Low back pain is fairly common and affects most people at some point during their life.
Low back pain is commonly caused by a strained muscle associated with forceful movement, physical work, lifting, bending or twisting, awkward positions, or even just standing in one position too long. As you can see, a there is a range of activities that can cause low back pain and exacerbate an current or previous low back problem.
Click here to read about conditions that can cause low back pain.
Anatomy of the Low Back
Low back pain can be caused by a range of things. Understanding spine anatomy will help you better understand the cause of your low back pain.
Your low back, called your lumbar spine in “doctor-talk”, is made up of numerous parts:
There are 5 lumbar vertebrae, which are the bones of your spine. They are named L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. Your lumbar spine vertebrae are the largest vertebrae in the spine, and they play a large role in carrying and distributing your weight.
On the back (posterior) side of your vertebrae, are your facet joints. Like all joints, the facet joints help ensure safe movement. In your lumbar spine, they are extremely important to your flexibility, they help determine how far forward and backward you can bend.
The intervertebral discs are between your vertebrae. The function of your intervertebral discs is to absorb movement, similar to the shocks on your car. Intervertebral discs have a rubbery exterior (annulus fibrosus) and they are filled with a gel-like substance (nucleus pulposus).
The spinal cord runs from your brain, down a protective tunnel made by the vertebrae and discs, called the spinal canal. Spinal nerves branch off of the spinal cord. In your lumber spine, the spinal cord becomes a bundle of nerves (cauda equine). These nerves branch out to the legs and help you feel and move.
Ligaments, muscles, tendons and blood vessels are the “soft tissues” of the lumbar spine. Your muscles, ligaments and tendons support your spine and ensure that you are able to safely move, lift, twist, etc.
As you can see, there is a complex range of parts that make up your lumbar spine. An injury or strain to any one of these can cause significant low back pain.