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Your back has an important job. It supports your head and torso, enables you to bend, twist and stretch and provides protection for your spinal cord. In order to perform all these tasks, your back is made of a complex maze of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons, each being susceptible to pain and injury. When your vertebrae are out of alignment, because of injury, muscle tension, muscle spasms or loose, weak muscles, you experience pain.


Your spine comprises 33 bones called vertebrae. Vertebrae contain canals for nerves, intricate joints and are attached to muscles and ligaments. Because your vertebrae are not all the same and have different functions, they’re defined in the following three segments.

1. Cervical vertebrae in your neck are smaller and more delicate, so you can move your head freely, in a number of directions.

2. Thoracic vertebrae connect with your ribs and provide some flexibility.

3. Lumbar vertebrae, located where your lower back curves, do heavy lifting, providing support for the body and important mobility. Because they carry the bulk of the weight and have a major role in bending at the waist, they’re most prone to pain and injury.

The sacrum and coccyx are actually fused vertebrae. The sacrum is the larger, shield-shaped bone that supports the lumber vertebrae and protects the pelvic area. And your coccyx, a reminder of our very early ancestors, is a tail.


It’s likely you’ve heard the terms ruptured disc and herniated disk. Disks are fluid-filled sacs that fit between each of your vertebra, serving as shock absorbers, holding your vertebrae together and making it easier to move. Sometimes disks slip out of position or rupture. This causes pain, particularly if it presses on a nerve.

Spinal Cord/Nerves

Made of nerve fibers, the spinal cord has the critical job of sending messages to and from the brain and the rest of your body. Sometimes these nerve fibers become irritated because of conditions such as a herniated disk, misaligned disk, injury or degeneration of the vertebrae. When this happens you may well feel symptoms like pain, headache, tingling, numbness or weakness. Your Cape Town chiropractor has a number of techniques for relieving these symptoms.