The spine provides the support that your head and neck need so that you can do the things you want to do like bend, twist, and stand up straight. This complex system of bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves is responsible for maintaining your overall quality of life, and at Elmhurst Orthopaedics, we understand how important spine, neck, and back health are to having the quality of life that you want and deserve. While almost everyone will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, not everyone responds to conservative treatment.

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How The Spine Works 

Your spine is a complex system comprised of small bones called vertebrae that work together to support the natural curvature your back, protect your spinal cord, and allow you to stand, walk, bend, and twist. It is split up into three main parts: your cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine.


Cervical Spine

From the base of your skull to the top of your chest, you have 7 vertebrae that make up your cervical spine. Your cervical spine is responsible for supporting your head, protecting your spinal cord, and allowing for proper blood flow to your brain by way of vertebral openings, openings only present in the cervical spine. The first two vertebrae (C1 and C2) are specially designed to give you the range of motion that you need to nod and turn your head. Therefore, your cervical spine has a wide range of motion.


Thoracic Spine

Beneath your cervical spine, is your thoracic spine, comprised of the next 12 vertebrae. Your thoracic spine connects to your ribcage and protects your internal organs like your lungs and heart. Your thoracic spine also protects your spinal cord. Unlike your cervical spine, your thoracic spine is limited in its range of motion. Consequently, your thoracic spine offers support and stability for your body.


Lumbar Spine

Following your thoracic spine are 5 large vertebrae that comprise your lumbar spine, which carries most of your body’s weight. Therefore, your lumbar spine is prone to injury and wear and tear. Common injuries for this region are conditions such as osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease because of the pressure put on the lumbar spine from supporting your torso.

Beneath your lumbar spine is the last 9 vertebrae, which make up your sacrum and coccyx. The sacrum connects your spine to the lower half of your body, and the coccyx, tailbone, is the base of your spine.

Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disc made up of a spongy material that is responsible for absorbing the pressure put on your spine. The intervertebral discs, therefore, protect your vertebrae from rubbing against each other. Due to age or injury, however, these discs can wear down, bulge, or herniate.


Common Causes of Spine Pain

Because the spine is such a complex system with many delicate moving parts, spine pain can be a result of any single part or combination of parts. Consequently, your spine is susceptible to joint pain, bone pain, nerve pain, muscle pain, and ligament pain. Some common spine issues that our medical team frequently treats are:


Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is caused when your intervertebral discs wear down and no longer absorb the majority of the stress put on your vertebrae. Lower back pain from degenerative disc disease is usually tolerable, but it can cause radiating pain during flare-ups and can also lead to nerve problems and abnormal movement.


  • Degenerative disc disease can be asymptomatic until an inflammation protein is released
  • Chronic low back pain
  • Radiating pain through your limbs


Herniated DiscHerniated Disc

A herniated disc is characterized by the protuberance of the softer inner core, the nucleus pulposus, of your intervertebral disc through the outer portion, the annulus fibrosus, of your intervertebral disc. Although herniated discs are most often seen in the lumbar spine, they can also occur in the cervical spine. Herniated discs do not often require surgical treatment.


  • Herniated discs can be asymptomatic
  • Radiating pain in your limbs
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness


Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is characterized by the abnormal narrowing of the spine. As a result of this narrowing of the spine, pressure is put on your nerves that can result in numbness and weakness.


  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Radiating pain


Radiculopathy is characterized by the pain of your nerve root as it exits your spine, and it most often occurs in the cervical and lumbar spine.


  • Pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness
  • Radiating pain in limbs
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Spine Injuries
& Conditions:

  • Auto Accidents
  • Work Injuries
  • Back and Neck Pain
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Radiculopathy – Lumbar and Cervical
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Vertebral Fracture
  • Spinal Instability
  • Whiplash
  • Herniated Disk
  • Pinched Nerves
  • Sciatica

Non-Surgical Treatments
for Spine Pain:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Epidural Steroid Injection
  • Botox Injections
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic Treatment
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Iontophoresis, Electrophoresis
  • Bracing
  • Tens Unit
  • Massage
  • Traction

When persistent back pain disrupts your quality of life, our medical team at Elmhurst Orthopaedics is here to provide you with high-quality personalized care to ensure your long-term health. Our expert orthopaedic surgeons and pain specialists will provide you with an accurate diagnosis and a personalized comprehensive treatment plan, using surgical treatment as a last-resort option.

To determine what treatment is needed for your neck, spine or back pain, please contact us at 630.834.0491 or make an appointment online with one of our board certified orthopaedic physicians.

Elmhurst Othopaedics

300 W. Butterfield Rd.
Elmhurst, IL 60126