Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain

The lumbar spine, also known as the lower back, has a key role both in the power and flexibility of the spine. That is why low back pain is so prevalent among people. Statistics suggest that nearly 630 million people suffer from low back pain at any given point in time.

Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

Lumbar spine anatomy
It is the third major region of the spine that is located inferior to the thoracic spine. It starts about 15 cm below the shoulder blades. Some of the features of the lumbar spine are as follows:
· The lumbar spine consists of 5 vertebrae (L1-L5).
· The backbones and discs are held together by ligaments which connect bone to bone. The ligaments along with tendons help to the stabilization of the spine.
· The function of intervertebral discs in the spinal column is absorbing pressure, distributing stress, and protecting the backbones from grating against each other.
· The spinal facet joints are located on the posterior side of the spine. They help the flexibility of the spine.
· L1-L5 are the largest unfused vertebrae in the spinal column which bear the weight of the entire torso.
· L4-L5 and L5-S1 are the most vulnerable parts of thespine to injury because they bear the most weight.
· The joint between the L5 and sacrum is a crucial part of thespine in rotating movements which lets the pelvis and hips swing while jogging and walking.
· The spinal canal is a vertical hole in the center of the spine where the spinal cord goes through after descending from the base of theskull. At about L1, the spinal cord ends and then a group of nerves (caudaequina), from the spinal cord, continue down and branch off to the lower part of the body. Some of them connect together to form the sciatic nerve, which goes down into the back of each thigh and finally into the feet.

Lumbar spine pain
Low back pain can be triggered by a variety of problems with any parts of the interrelated network of bones, muscles, nerves, discs, or tendons in the lumbar spine. A problem with any of these parts may cause lower back pain or in some cases, a referred pain to other parts of the body. The main causes of low back pain include:
· Back muscle strain:The main culprit in acute low back pains is a back muscle strain. Twisting, lifting heavy loads, repetitive bending, or other sudden movements can lead to muscles stretch resulting in low back pain.
· Degenerated discs: When a lumbar disc begins to break down, it can cause both inflammation and instability in the lower back, resulting in pain, muscle spasms, and sometimes, sciatica.
· Lumbar disc herniation: About 90% of sciatica cases are due to spinal disc herniationthat exert pressure on the lumbar or sacral nerve roots. Discherniation mayoccur suddenly or happen as the result of a chronic process of wear and tear.
· Sciatica:When a bulging disc exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve, sciatica occurs. There are also other causes such as spinal stenosis, infections, tumors, and injuries. The burning pain and/or tingling sensation go along the sciatic nerve, which runs down the legs and feet from the lower back.
· Spondylolisthesis:When a lumbar vertebra (especially of the L5)shifts forward on the sacrum, the condition is called spondylolisthesis.In case the slipped vertebra exerts pressure on the nerve, leg pain is produced.
· Sacroiliac joint dysfunction:Low back pain may occur if there is too much or too little movement in the sacroiliac joints.
· Facet joint osteoarthritis:In this condition, the cartilages between the facet joints broke down which lead to excess friction and the following joint swelling. The condition may develop into apain in the lower back, and eventually cause sciatica.
· Spinal stenosis: The contraction of the spinal canal or the narrowing of nerve root canals can place pressure on the nerves where they come out of the spine. Standing uprightelevates pressure on the nerve which leads toa leg pain.


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