Understanding Back Pain: Anatomy and Treatment Options

At Actin Physiotherapy we strive to offer the best quality physiotherapy services in Richmond, BC. One of the most common issues that bring clients into our clinic is back pain. 

There are many causes of back pain. At Actin Physiotherapy our experienced physiotherapists in Richmond, BC are experts trained to correctly diagnose the source of back pain. 

The Anatomy of the Back

The human spine can be classified into four regions. These are known as the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and sacrum. There are several bones in each of these regions of the spine that are known as vertebrae. Collectively the structure of the spine allows for movement, strength, and flexibility. The vertebra collectively provide a passageway for the spinal cord.  

There are a variety of structures in the back that may be a source of pain

Each of the spinal regions has unique anatomical features.

  • Cervical vertebrae are small bones that allow for the greatest amount of movement. We have a total of 7 cervical vertebrae. Their structure allows for us to turn, rotate, flex and extend our necks. This greatly improves our ability to scan our environment more easily.
  • Thoracic vertebrae are found in the mid back region. These are the vertebrae with attachments to our ribs. There are a total of 12 thoracic vertebrae corresponding to each of our 12 ribs. The thoracic vertebrae do not move as much as the cervical vertebrae because the ribs reduce some mobility in this region
  • Lumbar vertebrae are the largest vertebral bones in our bodies. One of their main functions is weight bearing.
  • The sacrum forms part of our pelvis. The coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is found at the inferior aspect (bottom) of the sacrum. 

While this is not an exhaustive list, the underlying cause of back pain can be attributed to the following:

– Spinal cord
– Nerve roots
– Muscle and ligaments
– Osteoporosis that can contribute to vertebral compression and wedge fractures. 
– Zygapophysial joints
– Herniated discs

The management of injuries or degenerative changes to these structures will vary depending on the severity of the injury, patient goals, and desired outcomes. Although these details are beyond the scope of this article, our physiotherapists at Actin Physiotherapy can help explain conditions and treatment options in detail during your appointment.  

Back pain is extremely common

Back pain is very prevalent. A majority of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, it is a leading cause of disability in the world. Back pain is the most common type of chronic pain. It commonly results in time away from work and impedes participation in recreational activities. 

Fortunately there are things that physiotherapists can do to help treat and resolve back pain. At Actin Physiotherapy we can develop and provide an exercise program that is catered to you. In many back pain cases strengthening exercises and stretches are encouraged. Exercise is associated with better long term outcomes in patients with back pain. Furthermore, physiotherapy guided treatment is associated with higher levels of patient satisfaction.  

Back pain can be difficult to deal with. It is important that you have both a clear diagnosis and plan to deal with your pain. If you have any questions about your back or other pain that you are experiencing, reach out to us. We are ready to serve you from our Richmond, British Columbia clinic. 

After completing his Master of Physical Therapy degree at the University of British Columbia, Manu has provided physiotherapy care in a variety of settings. He has worked in intensive care units, exercise based functional rehab programs, and outpatient clinics.

Manu Nijjar

Registered Physiotherapist

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