Our back is made up of small bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other to form a column. Between each vertebra is a cushion known as a disc. The vertebrae are held together by ligaments, and muscles are attached to the vertebrae by bands of tissue called tendons. This is what constitutes our back.
Openings in each vertebra line up to form a long hollow canal. The spinal cord runs through this canal from the base of the brain. Nerves from the spinal cord branch out and leave the spine through the spaces between the vertebrae.
The lower part of the back holds most of the body's weight. Even a minor problem with the bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons in this area can cause pain when a person stand, bends, or moves around. Less often, a problem with a disc can pinch or irritate a nerve from the spinal cord, causing pain that runs down the leg, below the knee called sciatica.
Even with today's technology, the exact reason or cause of back problems can be found in very few people. Most times, the symptoms are blamed on poor muscle tone in the back, muscle tension or spasm, back sprains, ligament or muscle tears, joint problems.
Sometimes nerves from the spinal cord can be irritated by "slipped" discs causing buttock or leg pain. This may also cause numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs.
People who are in poor physical condition or do work that includes heavy labor or long periods of sitting or standing are at greater risk for back problems. These people also get better more slowly. Emotional stress or long periods of inactivity may make back symptoms seem worse.
Back problems are often painful. But the good news is that very few people turn out to have a major problem with the bones or joints or the back or a dangerous medical condition.
What to do when you have back problems
Many people who develop mild low back discomfort may not need to see a health care provider right away. Often, within a few days, the symptoms go away without any treatment. A visit to your health care provider is good idea if y our symptoms are severe; if the pain is keeping you from doing things that you do every day; and the problem does not go away within a few days.
While Your back is getting better, tt is important to remember that even though you are having a problem with your back now, most likely it will begin to feel better soon.
It is also important to keep in mind that you are the most important person in taking care of your back and in helping to get back to your regular activities. It may also help you to remember that most low back problems last for a short amount of time and the symptoms usually get better with little or no medical treatment.
Low back problems can be painful. But pain rarely means that there is serious damage to your back. Exercise can help you to feel better faster and prevent more back problems. A regular exercise program adds to your general health and may help you get back to the things you enjoy doing.
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James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of
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