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Back Injury

A healthy back is straight and strong, moves easily and is free of pain. When there is pain in any area of the back for a very long period of time, this is called chronic back injury, or chronic back pain.
The most common area of chronic back injury is the lower back. This area is also called the lumbar spine.

The bones of the back, also called the spinal column, support a person’s upper body and give it flexibility. Each area of the back has differently shaped bones that allow for good movement. The spine consists of 24 bones called vertebrae (pronounced ver-te-bray). There are seven vertebrae in the neck, 12 in the upper (thoracic – pronounced thor-a-sic) spine, and five in the lower (lumbar) spine. A triangular bone called the sacrum is immediately below the lumbar vertebrae.

The sacrum is actually comprised of five bones fused together. The sacrum and the two pelvic bones form the base of the trunk. The tailbone (coccyx – pronounced cahk-sics) is actually made of three or four very small bones. All the bones in the back are kept in good alignment by support of the muscles in the abdomen. A healthy back is straight, strong, flexible and free of pain.

Back pain is usually defined as either acute or chronic. Doctors may diagnose low back pain as acute if it lasts less than a month and is not caused by serious medical conditions. Most cases clear up in a few days without medical attention, although recurrence after a first attack is common. If the pain persists, it is considered chronic back injury, also called chronic back pain; this constitutes only 1% to 5% of back pain cases.

The most common area of back injury is the lumbar spine. A lumbar strain is said to occur when the muscles of the low back are torn.

Herniated (pronounced her-nee-a-ted) discs are also a common source of back pain. Small cushions of cartilage, called intervertebral discs, separate vertebrae in the back from each other. Inside each disc is a jelly-like substance and 80% of the disc is water, which makes it very elastic. A disc does not contain any blood, and relies on nearby blood vessels to keep it nourished. A herniated disc occurs when the cartilage between the vertebrae tears. As a result the cartilage and its contents will bulge out from between the vertebrae, often putting pressure on the nerves in the area. This may produce muscle spasm at the site, and pain or weakness in the leg.

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