Functions of Your Lower Back

Your lower back is a very important part of your body anatomy. It performs important functions which are essential to your survival every day. You may not realize it but what your lower back does is crucial and having a good posture to preserve all that important function is an ideal you should strive towards.

Functions of Your Lower Back

The job your lower back does

So what are these functions of your lower back?

In order to understand the functions of the lower back, you have to understand the anatomy of the lumbar spine first and foremost.

Stacking Up the Frame

The lumbar spine consists of vertebrae stacked on top of each other. These vertebrae sit on the sacral bone which in turn has the iliac bone on each side of it. The sacral bone at the back, one iliac bone on each side of the sacrum and the pubic bone at the front, all three form the hollow area we call the pelvis.

As said earlier the vertebrae of the lower back called the lumbar vertebrae sits on the sacrum and continues in a continuous column with the thoracic (the chest vertebrae) and the cervical (the neck vertebrae). So the vertebrae of the lower back are the lowermost vertebrae. Therefore the lumbar vertebrae prop up the rest of the vertebrae that make up the vertebral column.

A Little Cushion for Comfort

In between the stacks of vertebrae is a little cushion called disks. The disks protect each vertebra from rubbing against each other preventing friction during movements involving the vertebrae. The disks also function as shock absorbers particularly when you walk or jump. The disks bind the vertebrae together but they are flexible enough to allow for movement including rotation and twisting.

The Tiny Bumps in the Middle of the Back

Arising from each vertebrae are some projections called spinous processes which can be felt if you run your finger along the spine at the back. When someone bends over, the spinous processes might become obvious to an onlooker. The thinner the individual is, the easier it is to see the spinous processes. The spinous processes are also springboards for muscular attachments.

What is a Facet?

At the back of the spine are paired joints called facets. The facets are paired joints formed by the vertebra above and the one below it. The facets enable the forward and backward movements of the spine. They also act as limiters of the vertebrae. What that means is that the facets prevent excessive movements of the spine especially when you extend your back (bend over backwards) as opposed to flexing it.

The sideways movement of the spine is also facilitated by the facets but excessive rotation of the lowermost aspect of your lower back is halted by the facets too. When you perform exercises to improve your posture, the facets are called into action to prevent any injuries from excessive rotational movement.

…And On the Side of the Middle

We also have projections from the side of each vertebra called the transverse process. The transverse processes provide a platform for muscular attachment. The spine on its own cannot do much without muscles.

You need muscles to move a skeleton. For a movement to be accomplished, you need the skeletal system and the attached muscle to work in unison. The same musculo-skeletal complex is useful when dealing with lower back pain because a lot (not all) of back problems arise from this complex.

That Long Stretch of a Structure

Which brings us nicely to the next structure – The spinal cord. Each of those vertebrae has a hollow center. The hollow center is where the spinal cord travels on its journey from the brain down to the lowermost point of it. Projecting from the spinal cord are the peripheral nerves through which impulses from the brain and spinal cord are sent and received.

Every movement you make is controlled by your brain, through the spinal cord, through to the peripheral nerves.

So What are the Functions of the Lower Back Again?

In essence all the functions of the lower back are relatable to the anatomy of the lower back. The functions of the lower back include:

Support – The lumbar spine supports the thoracic spine which in turn supports the cervical spine and the head at its uppermost.

Movement – Every movement of the torso from the simple to the complicated is facilitated by the lower back. The lumbar spine with the muscles attached controlled by the brain and spinal cord through to the peripheral nerves are responsible for every movement your torso makes.

Shielding – The lumbar spine protects the lumbar spinal cord. The lower back muscles also protect the soft organs of the abdomen. For instance your kidneys, your spleen, intestines, liver etc are all protected by your lower back.

Now that you know how important your lower back is, you would want to protect it and nurture it. A good posture is a good start to protecting your back. Bad posture ruins your back, good posture protects it. Using a posture brace is one simple way of protecting your lower back from further damage. See an overview of posture correctors on this page here.

Additional Resources:

Spine health – Back Muscles

Spine Care Help – Lower Back Function

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