What is Lower Back Anatomy?

The lower back, or lumbar spine, is the lowest portion of the spinal column. The anatomy of the lower back is engineered with vertebrae, discs, ligaments, and nerves. The lower back supports the weight of the upper body. Made up of five vertebrate (L1 – L5), the lumbar spine makes a backwards “C” shape, called lordosis. As a lumbar specialist, Dr. Braxton provides non-surgical along with advanced minimally invasive surgical treatments to help patients improve and recover from lower back pain.

What Do Spinal Discs in the Lower Back Do?

The discs of the lumbar spine are designed to separate the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers. The center of the disc, called the nucleus, is high-pressure oval shape gel-like cushion. The outer ring of the disc is a strong band called the annulus. Together the disc and vertebrae are designed to support the major demands of the lumbar spine.

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What are the Vertebrae in the Lumbar Spine?

There are five vertebrae in the lumbar spine (L1 – L5). The vertebrae in the lumbar spine are the largest unfused vertebrae of the spine. The spinal cord travels from the skull to the top of the lumbar spine at L1. At this point the spinal cord branches away from the center or the body, extending nerves throughout the lower extremities. The two lowest sections of the lumbar spine bear the most weight and move more than the other three sections. This makes these two sections of the lumbar spine (L4 – L5) the most prone to injury.

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

The causes of lower back pain can vary widely. Due to the lumbar spine having the most movement and bearing the most weight, the lower back is susceptible to injury. The most common causes of lumbar pain include:

  • Lumbar disc herniation. This occurs more frequently in the lumbar spine and may have quick onset from an injury or incorrect lifting event. It also occurs over time from normal wear and tear on the spine. Disc herniation can lead to pain in the legs and feet.
  • Muscular strain. Like herniation, muscle problems have a quick onset due to incorrect lifting, repetitive bending, or a sudden major movement. Although painful, muscle strains usually heal within days or weeks.
  • Degenerative discs. The soft tissue pads between vertebrae bare major demands making degeneration common. Discs normally stiffen and shift within the space and structure of the vertebrae. This disruption of the spinal equilibrium can create a period of pain, discomfort and weakness in the lumbar spine. This pain often alleviates with time as the spine eventually stabilizes.