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Back

diagram of a spine in pain

If you have lower back pain, you are not alone. For some, back pains could be minor and go away on their own, but it could be more serious for others. With back pain, comes symptoms. You could have acute, recurrent or chronic back pains that affect your quality of life. Back pain could come from a number of reasons such as injury, strain, overuse, or poor posture.

The spine is the foundation of the human body. It is made up of multiple bones stacked together that are referred to as vertebrae. The areas of the spine are curved in either a lordosis (concave) or kyphosis (convex) position. The cervical and lumbar vertebrae should all be in a position of lordosis. The thoracic vertebrae, sacrum and coccyx are in a positions of kyphosis. These are the normal curves of the spine, and problems can arise when these curves are not present or are excessive. In between each vertebrae is a jelly-like substance called an intervertebral disc, which helps to absorb the shock of our body weight throughout the day. The discs can also be affected by posture, lifting techniques and muscle imbalances because the disc can become stressed in ways that push it out from between the vertebrae. The spinal cord runs in a vertical path within the vertebrae, behind the vertebral discs. Nerves branch out from the spinal cord at each vertebral level, where they head out to help our bodies function. When the disc get injured and pushes the jelly-like substance out of place, the surrounding nerves can be pinched and irritated. The areas of the back do move independently of each other, but for the purpose of this reference they will be described together as the back. The muscles of the back do a pretty good job of supporting our daily activities as long as we keep them strong, flexible, and working at the appropriate times. Injury can occur when the back muscles are overused while exercising or moving with bad form.

The vertebrae of the back:

  • Cervical (7 vertebrae)
  • Thoracic (12 vertebrae)
  • Lumbar (5 vertebrae)
  • Sacrum
  • Coccyx

Major muscles and functions of the shoulder:

  • Flexion: abdominals
  • Extension: erector spinae (iliocostalis, longissimus & spinalis) and quadratus lumborum
  • Sidebend/lateral flexion: quadratus lumborum, external oblique and internal oblique
  • Rotation: external oblique and internal oblique

So when a coach tells you to keep your back flat and fully extend your hips it’s because they don’t want you to get injured! This also applies to lifting objects off the floor, so make sure you continue your good form even when you’re not in the gym.

 

Created by: Missy Albrecht DPT, CSCS, FMS

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