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Understanding Chiropractic Care and Your Health
Part 3: The Lumbar & Sacral Spine (Lower Back)

This is the third and final section of our article series dealing with the 3 major areas of the spine, and promoting awareness of the major role chiropractic care can play in your everyday health and wellness. The three main areas of the spine are the cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar / sacral spine (lower back).

The Lumbar Spine

Lady with lower back painThe lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae (spinal bones) labeled L1 to L5, which are located in the lower back below the thoracic spine. The lumber spine contains the largest and strongest vertebrae in the spine, and in addition to permitting movement, it supports the majority of weight of the upper body. The large nerves that exit the lumbar spine control and coordinate some of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. Muscles in the back, core, buttock and legs.

The nerves exiting the lumbar spine control the function of many organs including the reproductive organs, colon, large intestines, bladder, and prostate gland. The nerve most people have heard about is the sciatic nerve which exits through the mid buttock area and extends down the back of your leg into your feet. When the sciatic nerve is irritated/compressed you experience "sciatica".

The Sciatic Nerve

The sciatic nerve is made up of 5 different nerves that exit from the lumbar spine (lower back). The sciatic nerve runs down through the buttock area, the mid-buttock area, and then down the back of the thigh, down into the lower part of the calf area, and all the way into your feet and toes. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body.

Subluxations (misalignments), disc degeneration, a bulging/protruded disc (disc herniation), or even osteoarthritis can cause pain to the sciatic nerve. This is called sciatica. The pain from sciatica is commonly felt as the lower back pain, leg pain, aching or burning legs, numbness in the legs, tingling in the legs, weakness in your leg muscles, or even pain in your big toe.

Symptoms of Sciatica

In addition to pain, because nerves that exit from lower back control (innervate) all the organs of the body, nerve pressure can manifest itself through problems like constipation, incontinence, infertility, leg edema or leg swelling, urinary problems, erectile dysfunction, menstrual problems, and more.

Maintaining a Strong Core

For the long-term health of your lumbar spine, it is important to maintain a strong core. The core muscles are controlled by the nerves exiting from the lumbar spine, and these muscles in turn support and stabilize the lumbar spine. The three main types of back muscles that support your spine are extensor, flexor, and oblique muscles. The oblique muscles help the spine rotate and maintain proper posture. The extensor muscles enable you to stand and lift objects. They also hold the spine in its proper position. And the flexor muscles allow you to flex, bend forward, and arch your lower back. When your core muscles properly support your lumbar spine, you are less prone to injuring yourself. Please read our article with video on how to strengthen your core and lower back.

Possible Symptoms Related to the Lumbar Spine

    The lumbar spine
  • Bladder problems
  • Cold feet
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas pain
  • Incontinence
  • Infertility
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lower back pain
  • Menstrual problems
  • Miscarriages
  • Poor circulation
  • Sciatica
  • Swollen ankles

The Sacral Spine

The sacral spine is at the base of the spinal column. It contains 5 fused vertebrae labeled S1 to S5. It plays a pivotal role in supporting the upper body while connecting it to the lower body. It is positioned between the hipbones and stabilizes the entire pelvic girdle. The nerves from the sacral spine support the pelvic organs and the lower extremities of the body. They supply the buttocks, legs, ankles, feet, toes, reproductive organs, bladder, and the prostrate gland.

The 5 vertebrae comprising the sacral spine are also referred to as the sacrum. The sacrum is a triangular shaped bone, containing the vertebrae of the sacral spine, and joins the ilium (hipbones) at the sacroiliac joints. Pain at the sacroiliac joints is a common pain to the sacral spine.

Sacroiliac joint pain comes from joint dysfunction / misalignment which leads to inflammation, nerve irritation, or subluxations (misalignments) that can cause nerve compression and interference. This pain can be felt in the hip joints, lower back, or even your buttocks or groin.

Possible Symptoms Related to the Sacral Spine

  • Bladder problems
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lower back pain
  • Menstrual problems
  • Pain or numbness in legs

Lumbar (Lower Back) Pain

At one time or another, most people are going to experience back pain. For most people, that pain will be in lumbar spine. And of those people, the vast majority will experience sciatic nerve pain called sciatica.

Back pain is something everyone may have to deal with from top athletes, to office workers, CEOs, laborers, pregnant mothers, and anyone sitting for long periods of time. Just because everyone seems to be having pain doesn't mean that back pain is normal. It's just the opposite. Back pain means something is wrong and it needs to be taken care of.

As chiropractors, back pain, and specifically sciatica, is one of the most common types of pain we help our patients with on a daily basis. Our goal is to help you avoid many of these problems, and bring relief to those who are currently suffering from these problems. A healthy lumbar / sacral spine is important to your well-being. Proper posture, exercise, and regular chiropractic care are key to maintaining a healthy spine.

If you are dealing with any of these problems, call us at 757.467.5258 to arrange an appointment with Kempsville Chiropractic. We will consult with you on your lumbar spine issues and help find a solution that works for you. If any of your friends and family can benefit from this article, please recommend this article to them.

Read Part 1: Cervical Spine   |   Read Part 2: Thoracic Spine

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© 2013-2016 Kempsville Chiropractic

These articles are the property of Kempsville Chiropractic. They may not be reused without permission. You are welcome to link to this article. Kempsville Chiropractic has been proudly serving Virginia Beach, Virginia; Chesapeake, Virginia; and Norfolk, Virginia since 1996.

The contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Lombardozzi. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience and research of Dr. Lombardozzi and his staff. Dr. Lombardozzi recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.

Contact us at 757.467.5258 to set an appointment.