Normal Spinal Anatomy

sacral radiculitis

Fig 1: Sections of the spine

Before discussing the confusing aspects of terminology used to describe back problems, it is important to first review the overall terminology used to describe the normal anatomy of the spine.

Vertebrae Define Sections of the Spine

  • Thoracic spine (upper back) - made up of 12 thoracic vertebrae (known as T1 to T12), which are attached to the rib bones and sternum (breast bone). Because this part of the spine is firmly attached to the ribs and sternum, it is very stable and has fewer problems associated with motion.
    • See Thoracic Spine Anatomy and Upper Back Pain

    Lumbar Spine Anatomy Video

  • Lumbar spine

    (lower back) - typically including 5 vertebrae (known as L1 to L5), which have a great deal of motion and flexibility. Because this section of the spine bears most of the body’s weight and allows for the most motion (which stresses the anatomical structures), this is the area associated with most back problems. Problems in the low back can cause pain that radiates down the legs to the feet.

    • See Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain
  • People with back problems that get better within a few weeks usually have a strained muscle (a pulled muscle) or other soft tissue damage. However, many back problems that don't get better within a few months are caused by some type of problem with a spinal disc or nerve.

    Category: Radiculitis

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