When you decide to make an appointment with our spine specialty practice in New Jersey, you do so with confidence that we have the knowledge, experience and skill to provide you with relief from pain. This is absolutely true, and your trust is well placed. It is also true that the relationship between a physician and patient works best when it is a partnership in which both sides work together.
The best way for you to help your physician right from the start is by taking the time to understand the basics of your spine so that you can accurately convey the pain that you feel. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the human spine, how it is put together, and the correct terminology for various parts. The more clearly you can convey what you’re feeling and where it is, the faster and more effectively we will be able to help.
When you talk about back pain, what you’re experiencing may be muscle strain or it might be a problem with your spine. The spine runs all the way from the base of your skull down to what is colloquially known as the tail bone. It is made up of 33 vertebrae that inhabit five different and specific sections: the cervical region, the thoracic region, the lumbar region, the sacral region and the coccygeal region. Let’s look at each.
The Cervical Region
The cervical spine is made up of the top 7 vertebrae of the spine. The topmost vertebrae is where the spine meets the base of the skull and is called the Atlas. The Atlas and the Axis, which lies directly below it, are what allow the head to move up and down and to turn from side to side.
The Thoracic Region
There are twelve vertebrae in the thoracic spine. They are positioned directly below the cervical spine, and they are larger than the vertebrae above them. In fact, as you move from the top vertebrae (T1) of the thoracic spine to the twelfth thoracic vertebrae (T12), each vertebrae gets larger. This region provides your upper back and ribs with stability.
The Lumbar Region
There are 5 vertebrae in the lumbar spine. It is the area of the body that we think of as our lower back and is extremely vulnerable to strains and injury. Much of the back pain that is experienced by adults emanates from the lumbar spine.
The Sacral Region and the Coccygial Region
These two regions of the spine are distinguished by the fact that the vertebrae are very small and are fused together. There are 5 sacral vertebrae and 4 coccygeal vertebrae. The coccygeal vertebrae are the lowest part of your spine, and the fused together bones are often referred to as the tailbone.
Understanding the basic anatomy of the spine will prove helpful to you both in explaining your pain to your physician and in understanding what your physician tells you about your physical diagnosis and treatment plan. If you’d like to be seen by one of our professionals, contact us today to set up an appointment.