Anatomy of the Spine

The spine is divided into five sections.  The seven cervical vertebrae make up the neck.  The thoracic vertebrae comprise the chest section and have ribs attached.  The lumbar vertebrae are the remaining vertebrae below the last thoracic bone and the top of the sacrum.  The sacral vertebrae are caged within the bones of the pelvis and the coccyx, or tailbone, and is the lowest segment of the spine.

Between each vertebra is a “cushioning pad” called a disc.  This flexible design supports your body while allowing it to move freely.  The spinal column also protects the main nerve “highway” (the spinal cord) which runs through an opening in the back of each vertebra.

Coming from your spinal cord is a network of nerves that carry messages to and from your brain and the rest of your body.  Pressure on any one of these sensitive nerve roots may produce pain.  Many different structures in the spine are capable of producing back pain, including:

  • The large nerve roots that go to the legs and arms may be irritated
  • The smaller nerves that innervate the spine may be irritated
  • The large paired back muscles (erector spinae) may be strained
  • The bones, ligaments or joints themselves may be injured or worn
  • The disc space itself can be a source of pain

Common Problems:

To find out information about these common problems click on the appropriate link below:


A thorough history can help determine the type and seriousness of a spinal condition.  This is followed by a physical examination of your spine.  Examination of muscle strength, as well as neurological function, can pinpoint if any nerves are involved and the extent of any weakness.

Tests Dr Williams may organise:

  • X-rays
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Myelogram
  • CAT scan, CT or Computerised Tomograph

Treatment Dr Williams may organise:

  • Facet Joint Injection
  • Lumbar laminectomy
  • Spinal Fusion
  • Cervical Discectomy