Function and Structure of the Back




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The back consists of three major muscles: the latissimus dorsi, the erector spinae and the rhomboids (major and minor). These muscles are also known as your posture muscles.

Skeletal (striated) muscles are the muscles that move the bones of our body. When a muscle contracts, one of the bones to which it is joined remains virtually stationary as a result of other muscles that hold in the place. The muscles must be programmed to relax and tighten at the right instant.

The spine consists of a stack of bones (33) called vertebrae. These bones have been given an individual code to indicate their specific location in the spine.

- C followed by a number from 1 to 7 refers to the vertebrae in the neck. The first cervical vertebra, the atlas, supports the skull, allowing it to move freely.

- T 1-12 refer to the thoracic spine (from the bottom of the neck to the lumbar region).

- L followed by 1-5 refer 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.

In between each of the vertebrae are discs, which act as shock absorbers. The discs are made up of a soft jellylike substance (the nucleus), which is held inside a tough, elastic and fibrous outer casing (the annulus). If the outer casing of a disc is damaged in any way and makes the nucleus protrude, or even leak out, it causes what is commonly known as a ‚slipped‘ disc, but correctly known as a prolapsed disc. The main functions of the back are to support the upper body, protect the spinal cord and allow flexibility and movement of the body.

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.




 Last update: February 02, 2007




Los Angeles,



Los Angeles,



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